Organic Consumers Association

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OCA's Save the Bees Campaign

Bumblebee Is First Bee in Continental US to Be Listed as Endangered

For the first time, a bee species in the continental United States has been declared endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The rusty patched bumblebee is in worrisome decline and it is a race to keep it from becoming extinct, the agency said.

"Listing the bee as endangered will help us mobilize partners and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline," Wildlife Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius said.

The population of the rusty patched bumblebee has shrunk by 87% since the late 1990s, the wildlife service said.

Bees help pollinate 35% of the world's food, and bumblebees pollinate everything from tomatoes to cranberries, blueberries and melons.

There are a number of reasons for the crash of pollinator bees worldwide. Mainly, those are habitat loss (nearly 40% of all land is used for agriculture, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization), climate change (the land that's left is changing, and this is shrinking the ranges of some bees) and rampant chemical use.

"The rusty patched bumblebee is among a group of pollinators, including the monarch butterfly, experiencing serious declines across the country," Melius said. "Why is this important? Pollinators are small but mighty parts of the natural mechanism that sustains us and our world. Without them ... our crops require laborious, costly pollination by hand."

The species joins seven species of yellow-faced bees found in Hawaii on the endangered list. It is one of 47 bumblebee species in North America.

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