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Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species Program, Xerces; (971) 244-3727; [email protected]

Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist, Xerces; (503) 468-8405; [email protected]

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Protected as an Endangered Species

First bee in the continental U.S. is listed under the Endangered Species Act

PORTLAND, Ore., January 10, 2017—Responding to a petition from the Xerces Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will list the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, making it the first bee in the continental United States to receive such protection. The decision will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, January 11.

With this listing, the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) will be protected from activities that could cause it to go extinct. The Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority to develop and implement a recovery plan.

“We are very pleased to see one of North America’s most endangered species receive the protection it needs,” said Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species at the Xerces Society. “Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces—from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to diseases.”

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has relied upon the best available science and we welcome this decision,” said Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist at the Xerces Society. “Addressing the threats that the rusty patched bumble bee faces will help not only this species, but countless other native pollinators that are so critical to the functioning of natural ecosystems and agriculture.”

“Today’s Endangered Species listing is the best—and probably last—hope for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee. Bumble bees are dying off, vanishing from our farms, gardens, and parks, where they were once found in great numbers,” said Rebecca Riley, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), who partnered with the Xerces Society to encourage the Fish and Wildlife Service to take action on the listing petition for this species.

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. Once common from Minnesota to Maine, and south through the Appalachians, this species has been lost from 87% of its historic range since the late 1990s.

“Native pollinators in the U.S. provide essential pollination services to agriculture which are valued at more than $9 billion annually,” said Eric Lee-Mäder, pollinator program co-director at the Xerces Society. “We have already seen incredible leadership from the agricultural community in restoring and protecting hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat for the rusty patched bumble bee and other native pollinators. Providing a landscape that sustains all of our native bees will require continued investment by public agencies, as well as efforts from private residents in both urban and rural areas.”

The scientific consensus agrees that pathogens and pesticides are the two biggest threats to the existence of this species, compounded by loss of habitat. The rusty patched bumble bee is already listed as “endangered” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

The Xerces Society commends the Fish and Wildlife Service for moving forward on this decision and looks forward to working toward recovery of this species.


To view the ruling by the FWS:

More information about the rusty patched bumble bee

Read the complete petition:

For more information about the Xerces Society’s bumble bee conservation efforts, visit

Species profile for Canada’s Species at Risk Act:

Species profile for International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List:

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