Rusty Patched Bumble Bee One Step Closer to Protection

For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; (503) 449-3792; sblack@xerces.org

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee One Step Closer to Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that this important pollinator may be threatened with extinction.

PORTLAND, Ore.— Responding to a petition from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today issued a positive 90-day finding for the rusty patched bumble bee, determining that protection under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted and initiating a status review of the species. This action resulted from a settlement agreement between the Xerces Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council and USFWS.

The rusty patched bumble bee is not only an important pollinator of prairie wildflowers, but also of cranberries, blueberries, apples, alfalfa and numerous other crops. Previously common across the Upper Midwest and Eastern Seaboard, in recent years this bee has been lost from 87% of its historic range. It is listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act in Canada and as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The ESA petition was authored by Xerces staff and bumble bee scientists Dr. Robbin Thorp, professor emeritus at the University of California at Davis, and Elaine Evans, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota.

“We are happy that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes the uncertainty that hangs over the future of the rusty patched bumble bee,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. “We hope that the Service will complete the 12-month status review on time and take the necessary steps to ensure protection for this valuable pollinator.”

The rusty patched bumble bee faces numerous threats, including diseases, pesticides, habitat loss and climate change. The recent decline of this and some closely related bumble bees may be attributable to the spread of pathogens from commercial to wild bumble bees. Bumble bees are raised and sold commercially to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes and a wide variety of other crops throughout the world, and very few regulations currently exist to ensure that the bees that are sold are free of diseases. Native pollinators in the United States—including bumble bees—provide essential services to agriculture that are estimated at $3 billion annually.

“Bumble bees are critically important to agriculture, and their decline poses a threat to farmers of bee-pollinated crops across the U.S.,” said Sarina Jepsen, lead author of the petition and Endangered Species program director at the Xerces Society. “Expanding habitat for the rusty patched bumble bee is essential for its future. ESA protection will provide greater support for people who want to create habitat for this bee.”

The bumble bee was recently profiled in in a story and short video, “A Ghost in the Making: Photographing the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee,” by Clay Bolt and Neil Losin of Day’s Edge Productions. The Xerces Society is currently collaborating with Bolt and Losin on a longer film about the bumble bee.

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For More Information

Federal Register

Read the complete petition

Read the IUCN Red List profile

“A Ghost in the Making: Photographing the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee,” by Clay Bolt and Neil Losin of Day’s Edge Productions. 


For more information about the rusty patched bumble bee, click here.

For more information about the Xerces Society’s bumble bee conservation efforts, click here.

About the Xerces Society The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs. To learn more about our work, please visit www.xerces.org.

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Images

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The rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) by Rich Hatfield, The Xerces Society.