Dwindling populations of the American bumble bee and their complete disappearance from eight states has led to call for the bee to be placed under the Endangered Species Act before they face extinction.
Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Oregon each have zero or close to zero American bumble bees left, according to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and Bombus Pollinators Association of Law Students.
“The American bumble bee was once the most common bumble bee species in North America, but without immediate action to protect it under the ESA, it will continue its alarming decline towards extinction,” the petition authors wrote.
Over the last two decades, the American bumble bee population has decreased by 89% across the U.S. New York had a decline of 99% and they disappeared from the northern part of Illinois that has seen a 74% decrease in population since 2004, the petition said.
Climate change, pesticides, disease, habitat loss and competition from honey bees are listed as driving the bee to extinction.
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The petition was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Feb. 1 for review to determine if the insect could be listed as an endangered species and a critical habitat be designated for the bee under the Act.
A 90-day review conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found substantial evidence that the listing of the American bumble bee under the Endangered Species Act may, in fact, be warranted.
The review now heads to a 12-month status review where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will evaluate the potential threat to the species.
“This is an important first step in preventing the extinction of this fuzzy black-and-yellow beauty that was once a familiar sight,” Jess Tyler, a Center scientist and petition co-author, said in a statement. “To survive unchecked threats of disease, habitat loss and pesticide poisoning, American bumblebees need the full protection of the Endangered Species Act right now.”
The Bombus Pollinator Association of Law Students, or BPALS for short, is a group of 14 students from Albany Law School who collaborated with the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit organization who work to protect endangered species, to file the petition.
The loss of the insect could cause serious repercussions to the environment and crop production due to them being essential pollinators in agriculture. If the American bumble bee is added to the endangered species list, it will join the rusty-patched bumble bee.
If granted federal protection, anyone found to have killed or harmed the bee could face up to $13,000 in fines.
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