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Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

By Miriam Raftery

March 22, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – For the first time ever, a bee has been added to the endangered species list.  The rusty patched bumblebee is now officially protected, meaning it’s a federal crime to harm or kill them. 

Rusty patched bumblebees were once found in 28 states and Canada, but today are found only in a few eastern and Midwest states.  Their population has fallen by 87 percent. The Obama administration had ordered the bees to be added to the list of federally protected species, but the Trump administration initially delayed implementation by six week.

The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit over the delay, seeking to protect the bees from extinction.

Habitat loss, pesticides, disease and climate change are among the reasons listed for their decline on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website. 

Bees are important for pollinating crops and other plants.  The public can help protect bumblebees and other bees by planting native species such as lupine and bee balm.  Avoiding the use of pesticides can also help bee populations flourish.