Bumble Bees Are Disappearing, Could Face Extinction Without Further Action

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A bumblebee is pictured in Essen, Germany, July 18, 2016.

The American bumblebee, which has completely disappeared from eight states, has seen its population plummet to the point that it could be placed under the Endangered Species Act.

The bumblebees have completely disappeared from Idaho, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and Wyoming. They also have a limited number in New York, Illinois and six other states as well -- totaling 16 states.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Bombus Pollinators Association of Law Students put a petition together and called for the American bumblebee to be added as a part of the Endangered Species Act. 

“Once the most commonly observed bumblebee in the United States, the American bumblebee has declined by 89 percent in relative abundance and continues to decline toward extinction due to the disastrous, synergistic impacts of threats including habitat loss, pesticides, disease, climate change, competition with honey bees, and loss of genetic diversity,” the nonprofit organization and a group of 14 Albany Law School students wrote the petition. 

The petition was sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for review to be added to the list back in February. A 90-day review was done which led to the FWS granting a warranty for the species to be added to the list on Sept. 28. 

Now, the species moves onto the next step, which is undergoing a "12-month status review." This includes an evaluation that is done on what is threatening the species and how to fix it. The Endangered Species listing will not be complete until after the one-year assessment. 

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the American bumblebee whose populations have plummeted by nearly 90%, may warrant Endangered Species Act protection. The announcement kicks off a one-year status assessment of the species,” a press release said. 

The species continues to struggle in multiple areas of the Northeast and Northwest regions of the U.S., and complete disappearance could soon become a reality for more states without further action.

“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 the press release. “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 American bumblebee serves an important part of the ecosystem because they are very efficient pollinators.

Should the long Endangered Species listing process be completed and finalized, the American bumblebee would be federally protected. The harming or killing of the species could face up to $13,000 in fines.

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