For the first time in the U.S., a bumble bee has been listed as an endangered species.
It’s called the rusty patched bumble bee. The species is no longer found in Michigan, but small populations still exist elsewhere in the Great Lakes region.
Georgia Parham is a public affairs specialist with the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
She says that the rusty patched bumble bee was common until the late 1990s, until researchers started documenting a decline.
“After a couple of decades of that, we were petitioned to list the species. We did a status review and found that its abundance had dropped by like 87%, which is a huge drop in a short period of time,” she says.
Parham says the bee's decline appears to be driven by many factors, including loss of prairie habitat.
“There’s concerns about use of pesticides. There’s a thought that possibly pathogens or disease from other bee colonies might be affecting it. And also concerns about climate change, because climate change can intensify weather events that can affect this bee population,” she says.
What to do to keep the bee from going extinct
Parham says the agency is figuring out how to help the bee. But she says there are some things you can do to help now.
“One thing about this particular bee is the places where it’s still found, and there aren’t that many of them, some of these places are in urban areas and people can help by planting bee-friendly, native plants in their backyard,” she says.
She says rusty patched bumble bees are the first bees to come out in the spring, and the last ones to go into hibernation in the fall, so they need a lot of flowers through the growing season.
But Parham says that even in hibernation, the species needs help.
“Leaving garden debris over winter is really important as well, because it gives them some habitat to hibernate in,” she says.
You can learn more about the rusty patched bumble bee on this website.