Bees placed on endangered species list for first time in U.S.

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Yellow Faced Bee by Katja Schulz

HONOLULU, HI — The United States is on a mission to save some of its busiest workers: bees.

In a first for bees in the nation, seven bee species native to Hawaii are now protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it added the yellow-faced bee species to the federal list of endangered species Friday night after years of research. Scientists have since concluded that the pollinators are gravely threatened by the prospect of extinction.

The rule becomes effective as of October 31st.

Bees are primarily responsible for helping pollinate plants which produce fruit, nuts and vegetables. Their continued existence is critical to managing the nation’s food industry, as well as for the survival of numerous other forms of wildlife.

Several species, particularly honey bees, have experienced sharp population declines in recent years due to various factors, including habitat loss, wildfires and loss of genetic diversity. This mass disappearance is often known as “colony collapse disorder,” or C.C.D.

“Native pollinators in the US provide essential pollination services to agriculture which are valued at more than $9 billion annually,” said Eric Lee-M├Ąder, pollinator program co-director at the Xerces Society, an organization which has heavily invested into the survival of pollinators. They have launched numerous petitions calling for the protection of the bee species.

During pollination, insects, birds and bats transfer pollen between plants, which allows them to make seeds and reproduce.

Listing bees on the endangered species list allows the proper authorities to provide funding for programs focused on population recovery and protection.