Sunday, April 2, 2017

What's next for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee?

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis)

The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee received some good news on March 21st. It became the first bee in the contiguous 48 states  named endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

It’s good news because now we can get on with combating the bad news: the fact that this bee, without protection and help, is heading for extinction.

The designation had been put on hold in January by the Trump administration as a result of complaints from a coalition of oil, real estate, farm and energy lobbies.

According to The Washington Post, The American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Cotton Council of America and two other groups described the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s determination under the Obama administration as a rush to judgment executed shortly before President Trump took over.

“The implications of this hasty listing decision are difficult to overstate,” their petition says. They called it one of the most significant in decades in terms of its scope because of the bee’s enormous range — 13 states, including Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. [Article quoted was published March 21, 2017.]

Facts tell us the bee populations in nearly 90 percent of its range have disappeared over the past 20 years. Not exactly a “rush to judgment” in my humble opinion.  Scientists say this decline is the result of issues that range from pesticides and household herbicides to habitat loss and climate change.

Courtesy Xerces Society
So what are the next steps?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is developing a long-term recovery plan to “spur proactive conservation and focus resources on locating, protecting and restoring habitat which once stretched from South Dakota to Connecticut and two provinces in Canada.”

Now officially endangered
The Department of the Interior is sensitive to the fact that many organizations from transmission utilities to farmers to real estate developers over a broad geographic area will be affected by the endangered designation.  For example, use of certain pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals may not be allowed in some areas. They vow to “work with stakeholders to ensure collaborative conservation among landowners, farmers, industry and developers.”

In reality, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee is likely to be found in locations that cover only 0.1% of the previous range. Special permits and other regulatory measures may be required in these limited locales. The FWS will post information on their website to help determine which areas considered for development may be affected.

I will be monitoring the progress of the plan and will post updates when more information is available.

In the meantime, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has some suggestions we can all follow no matter where we live:

First, those of us in affected states need to check out this fact sheet from the Service for more information about the bee.

Then, grow flowers, including flowering trees and shrubs. Have a mix with something in bloom from early spring through fall. Include native milkweeds for monarch butterflies.

Bumble bees and many other pollinators (bees, moths and butterflies) need a safe place to build their nests and overwinter. Leave some areas of your yard unmowed in summer and unraked in fall, in your garden and flower beds leave some standing plant stems in winter. Provide a pesticide free environment.

It’s a start.  

Let’s all roll up our sleeves and do what we can to make sure the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee makes a beeline for recovery.


Beth @ PlantPostings said...

Great post! I found it interesting that Wisconsin wasn't mentioned in the quote, although maybe that's good since it's a negative perspective. There have been many sightings in Wisconsin-particularly at the UW-Madison Arboretum, where I volunteer. The habitat there is providing a rare haven for the RP Bumble Bee. Great call to action in your post. :)

Lynn Hunt said...

Thanks so much Beth. I'm delighted to hear you have some RP bees near you. That is indeed good and hopeful news. Do they nest in the ground at the Arboretum? Hope we can get more people motivated this spring to help all our pollinators!

Sunil Patel said...

Hello Lynn, it's a shame things have to get this bad (and worse?) before action is taken. I hope the recovery is swift and well tracked and correlated to conservation efforts (for future case studies).

Lynn Hunt said...

Hi Sunil, yes it is a shame it took so long to get going with this, but at least a plan is in the works. Sadly three more bees are in line to go on the Endangered List, but I doubt the current administration will allow it to happen.

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