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

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

Margie Kelly, Communications Manager, Natural Resources Defense Council, 312-651-7935, [email protected]


US Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Rusty Patched Bumble Bee for Endangered Species Act Protection

PORTLAND, Ore.— Responding to a petition from the Xerces Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed listing the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The decision will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, September 22. Once finalized, the rusty patched bumble bee will be the first bee in the continental U.S. to receive Endangered Species Act protection.

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

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. After an extensive status review, Xerces Society conservation biologists concluded that this bumble bee is in immediate danger of extinction; it is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

“Native pollinators in the US 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 rusty patched bumble bee faces numerous threats from disease, pesticides, habitat loss, and climate change. The recent decline of the rusty patched and other closely related bumble bees was likely initiated by 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, and there is a lack of regulations to ensure that the bees sold are free of diseases. Of additional concern is the widespread use of persistent, long-lasting, highly toxic neonicotinoid insecticides within the range of the rusty patched bumble bee, which pose a threat to its continued existence.

“This decision comes not a moment too soon,” said Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “Bee populations—including thousands of species of wild bees—are in crisis across the country, and the rusty patched bumble bee is one of the most troubling examples.  Today’s decision is a critical step forward. If finalized, the endangered species protections will improve the health of our ecosystem as well as the security of our national food supply.”

The rusty patch bumble bee has already engendered considerable support. It was the subject of an award-winning film, A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, and over 128,000 people signed a petition in support of its protection.

The Xerces Society commends the USFWS for moving forward on this decision and looks forward to working together to ensure that this bumble bee is protected and recovered.




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