The rusty patched bumble bee, Bombus affinis, a once widespread species throughout the north eastern states and two Canadian provinces, has been added to the US endangered list – the first for a American native species of bumble bee.
The lag in adding the bee to the endangered list has been placed on the Trump administration’s shoulders, which only moved recently to list the bee after the US Fisheries and Wildlife Service (USFWS) had recommended it as a matter of urgency a month before.
The bumblebee’s decline has happened with alarming rapidity, with its populations crashing from widespread to endangered in as little as 20 years.
Spokesperson for the USFWS, Tom Melius, said the matter was an urgent one:
“Our top priority is to act quickly to prevent extinction of the rusty patched bumblebee. Listing the bee as endangered will help us mobilise partners and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline.”
A combination of disease, pesticides, habitat loss and climate change are thought to be responsible for the decline. Now, small population dynamics are putting the bee in yet further peril.
Once again the widespread use of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoid-based pesticides, are being eyed as a major contributing factor to the bee’s decline.
The bee’s listing has once again stirred the hornet’s nest of regulating or outright banning of neonicotinoids in the US. Protecting pollinators is now seen as a matter largely for the states, after Donald Trump moved recently to lessen the powers of regulation at the US Environmental Protection Agency.
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