Seven Native Hawaiian Pollinators Proposed as Endangered Species

For Immediate Release

Contact: Sarina Jepsen, Endangered Species Program Director, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; 503-232-6639, ext. 112;

Seven Native Hawaiian Pollinators Proposed as Endangered Species

First bees to be proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act

Portland, Ore.—In response to petitions from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed today that seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees be listed as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. When the proposed rule is finalized, these will be the first bees to gain federal protection in the United States.

“After six years of consideration, we are thrilled that these at-risk pollinators have finally been proposed for Endangered Species Act protection,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director at the Xerces Society. “Yellow-faced bees are the only bees native to the Hawaiian Islands. They are keystone species in the islands’ ecosystems, as many of Hawaii’s native plant species are not well adapted to pollination by nonnative pollinators.”

Although Robert Perkins, a naturalist active in the late 1800s and early 1900s, called Hawaiian yellow-faced bees “almost the most ubiquitous of any Hawaiian insects,” more recent surveys by biologist Karl Magnacca have demonstrated that seven species—Hylaeus anthracinus, Hylaeus longiceps, Hylaeus assimulans, Hylaeus facilis, Hylaeus hilaris, Hylaeus kuakea and Hylaeus mana—are in imminent danger of going extinct.

Despite their small size, Hawaiian yellow-faced bees are extremely important. They are critical pollinators of many endangered native Hawaiian plants and the decline of these bees could lead to the extinction of the plants that rely upon them. Recognizing the endangerment of numerous native Hawaiian plant species, the Service has granted Endangered Species Act protection to over 300 Hawaiian plants, and proposed listing for an additional 39 species today. Protection of these imperiled pollinators will benefit both the bees and the rare plants that they pollinate.

“These are the first bee species to be proposed for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. “Our hope is that this listing can be a wakeup call for all of us to recognize the critical role that pollinators play in ecosystems, and begin to take the necessary steps to conserve their habitats.”

The Service recognized myriad threats to these rare pollinators—from the loss of habitat due to land conversion, development and recreation (especially in coastal and lowland areas) to the negative impacts of nonnative species, such as wild pigs, bigheaded ants and invasive plants. They also recognized that climate change, fire and the small populations of these bees are factors that threaten these bees with extinction. Conservation of these Hawaiian yellow-faced bees will require the active management of natural areas where populations are known to exist.


For More Information

Read more about Hawaiian yellow-faced bees

Read the announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Protecting the Life That Sustains Us

The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Since 1971, the Society has been at the forefront of invertebrate protection, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs worldwide. To learn more about our work or to donate to the Society, please visit



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Hylaeus assimulans, one of seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees proposed for Endangered Species Act protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today. Photo credit: John Kaia.