For the first time, federal officials have confirmed that the North American bumble bee is on the endangered species list. The number of Bombus affinis, or rusty patched bumble bees, has gone down significantly in recent decades, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The bumblebee is a pollinator that typically lives in 28 states in the Northeast and Midwest, as well as two Canadian provinces and Washington D.C. Due to several factors such as the destruction of the bees’ natural habitat, global climate change and increased pesticide use, the bee now only lives in 13 states and one Canadian province as of 2000.
The Natural Resources Defense Council states that there’s a decrease of about 90 percent in the last 20 years. Sarina Jepsen, director of the endangered species at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, says that she’s excited to see one of the most endangered species in North America receive the protect it needs. The Xerces Society was one of the organizations that petitioned for the bee to be listed as endangered.
Now that the bee has been classified as endangered, the insect may have a chance of surviving the various threats it faces, including exposure to pesticides and diseases. Officials estimate that the economic value of pollinators like the bumble bee to be around $3 billion every year. Crops like cranberries, clover and blueberries depend heavily on the work that bumblebees do. Tomatoes are also nearly exclusively pollinated by bumblebees.
Rebecca Riley, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, states that the bumble bee’s endangered species listing is the best and possibly last resort for recovery. The insects are needed for several types of plant life to thrive healthily, which directly effects human food supply.