We have written a lot about how bee colonies are being wiped out at an alarming rate across the US, the UK and Europe. It’s not entirely clear what is causing global bee colony collapse disorder, but it likely has something to do with the use of pesticides and fungicides, with the situation likely exacerbated by habitat loss, climate change, and even Brexit. Now, seven types of yellow-faced bees native to Hawaii are officially endangered species in the US.
The US Fish and Wildlife Services decision to give some of the most hardworking American creatures the protections of the Endangered Species Act went into effect Oct. 31, a month after the agency made the official ruling. This is the first time bees have made it to the list of US endangered species, as part of a wider initiative to help save the insects, which are responsible for pollinating $30 billion worth of commercial fruit and vegetables in the US each year.
In some cases, the government will protect specific habitats of endangered species from human development. That’s not the case for these Hawaiian bees, a Honolulu US Fish and Wildlife Services representative told the AP. However, local authorities will be able to access federal funding and create conservation programs for the protection of these seven bee species under the Endangered Species Act. These could come as efforts to conduct census counts, breed the bees, or to place bans on products that could threaten the species’ population.
Karl Magnacca, an entomologist based in Hawaii, told AP that it took 10 years of advocacy and research to get these bees the protection of the Endangered Species Act; ultimately, the decision was likely kicked pushed as the result of a more recent White House effort to respond to the threat 0f bee colony collapse disorder.
Like wasps, yellow-faced bees lack “scopa,” the dense mass of hair that bumble bees have. These particular species of bees are crucial for maintaining indigenous plants in Hawaii, some of which are endangered themselves, and provide a habitat structure for other animals in the ecosystem. The bumble bee, which pollinates many crops on the continental US, is under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act.