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Rusty patched bumble bee (US Fish & Wildlife)

For the first time, a bee was listed as an endangered species in the US

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A species of bee has been declared endangered for the first time in the continental U.S.

Specifically, it's the rusty patched bumble bee, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It used to be common from Connecticut to South Dakota, but its population has fell 87 percent since the late 1990s. It's now only seen in 13 states. 

Our top priority is to act quickly to prevent extinction of the rusty patched bumble bee.
Tom Melius, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Why this matters

Bees are among the best pollinators in the world. Without them, wild plants and crops like tomatoes and peppers require costly, labor-intensive hand-pollination to keep growing, Fish & Wildlife Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius said. 

Bumblebee.jpg

This 2016 photo provided by The Xerces Society shows a rusty patched bumblebee in Minnesota. Federal officials said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, that the rusty patched bumblebee has become the first bee species in the continental U.S. to be declared endangered after suffering a dramatic population decline over the past 20 years. (Sarah Foltz Jordan/The Xerces Society via AP)

Bee populations have been declining as a result of loss of habitat, widespread use of pesticides and climate change that kills the flowers bees need. To help bees, Melius urged limiting the use of pesticides and planting native flowers. 

If you look at statistics, they suggest Fish and Wildlife is not paying as much attention to invertebrates as other species.
Rich Hatfield, biologist

It's harder for bees to get the legal protections of being endangered than most species. Since insects are harder to research than larger animals, it's harder to prove they're endangered, Smithsonian reports.  The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed the bees as endangered since 2007. 

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