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May 13, 2014

Sarina Jepsen, Endangered Species Program Director, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 971-244-3727, [email protected]

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Threatened with Extinction

The Xerces Society and NRDC filed a complaint today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect this important pollinator

PORTLAND, Ore.– The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation together with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a complaint today against the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking them to take action on a petition to grant Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection to the rusty patched bumble bee. 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. This bee was previously common across the Upper Midwest and Eastern Seaboard, but in recent years it has been lost from 87% of its historic range.

The Xerces Society filed a petition to protect the rusty patched bumble bee under the ESA more than a year ago. The law requires that the Secretary of the Interior must make an initial response—a simple statement of whether or not the petition presents sufficient information to support the requested protection—within 90 days, and if the Secretary finds that protection may be warranted, a decision within one year of whether or not the species should be protected. Neither of these deadlines has been met. Hence, the Xerces Society, with legal representation from NRDC, is taking the next step.

“This once-common bee has nearly disappeared in the past decade and a half,” said Sarina Jepsen, Endangered Species program director at the Xerces Society. “The few remaining populations are isolated and likely to go extinct without protection under the Endangered Species Act.”

Meanwhile, the rusty patched bumble bee continues to face threats. Declines in some North American bumble bees have been associated with increased pathogen levels and reduced genetic diversity, and scientists are currently investigating the hypothesis that exotic pathogens were introduced to wild rusty patched bumble bees from commercial bumble bee colonies. The rusty patched bumble bee may also be threatened by other pathogens, pesticides, habitat loss or fragmentation, climate change, and competition with honey bees for nectar and pollen.

Native pollinators—including bumble bees—provide essential services to American agriculture that are estimated at $3 billion annually.

“Bumble bees are critically important to agriculture, and their decline represents a significant threat to farmers of bee-pollinated crops across the U.S.,” said Eric Mader, Assistant Pollinator Program Director with the Xerces Society. “ESA protection of the rusty patched bumble bee is important because it will trigger greater technical and financial support for farmers who want to create habitat for this bee.”


For more information:

Read the complaint:

Read the complete Endangered Species Act petition:

For more information about the rusty patched bumble bee:

For more information about Project Bumble Bee, the Xerces Society’s bumble bee conservation program:

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, please visit