The rusty-patched bumble bee is a species of bee historically found in grasslands and prairies of the Midwest and Northeast. Rusty-patched bumble bees live in colonies made up of a single queen and female workers, producing males and new queens annually in the late summer. The bees all have black heads but vary in size and appearance depending on their roll within the colony. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the rusty-patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in January 2017, making it the first bee on the list in the United States.
Why was the rusty-patched bumble bee listed as threatened?
In 2013, the Xerces Society submitted a listing petition to the Service. According to the petition, the rusty-patched bumble bee population is primarily threatened by a loss of habitat in the Midwest and Northeast due to the conversion of prairies and grasslands into developed land, intensive farming, and certain pathogens and parasites throughout North America. The following steps have been taken to list the bee:
- February 2013: FWS received a petition from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation requesting that the rusty-patched bumble bee be listed as an endangered species.
- September 2015: FWS releases findings concluding that the species may be warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
- September 2016: FWS releases results of 12-month finding and concludes that listing the species is warranted, proposing to list the rusty-patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
- January 2017: FWS amends the Endangered Species Act to include the rusty-patched bumble bee on the list of endangered species, effective as of February 10, 2017.
- March 2017: The listing goes into an effect, following a 60-day freeze on Obama-era regulations by the Trump administration.
Where is the rusty-patched bumble bee located?
Historically, the rusty-patched bumble bee was found across the eastern and Midwest United States, as well as in southern Quebec and Ontario. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the bumble bee has only been reported in 13 states and one Canadian province since 2000. Currently, the species range includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada.
Why is this listing decision flawed?
As IPAA laid out in previous comments ahead of the listing, the Service’s decision “suffers from serious data-related flaws that undermine the Service’s assertions regarding the RPBB’s population level and range and ultimately its conclusion that the species warrants an endangered listing.” While every effort should be made to ensure the protection and restoration of the bee population, it should not be done unnecessarily and at the cost of economic development. Instead, the federal government should work with state, local, and industry partners to conserve the rusty-patched bumble bee population without limiting the economy and unnecessarily restricting commercial activity.