A bumble bee that was a common sight across a huge swathe of the US just 20-years ago, is "now balancing precariously on the brink of extinction" and had become the first of its species to be declared endangered.
The rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) has seen its population has fallen by an estimated 90 per cent in the last 20 years because of disease, pesticides, climate change and habitat loss, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Our top priority is to act quickly to prevent extinction of the rusty patched bumble bee,"said the Service's Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius. "Listing the bee as endangered will help us mobilise partners and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline.”
Once commonly found across the upper Midwest and Northeastern US, the creature was dur to be listed as endangered in September 2016.
But this was delayed as the Trump administration froze federal protections plans passed in the closing period of Barack Obama's presidency.
Conservation groups that had called for the new classification welcomed the move.
"The listing helps mediate threats for this species and for all of those other animals out on the landscape that are suffering similar setbacks," said Rich Hatfield, senior biologist at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
The 10 winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016
The 10 winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016
1/10 The alley cat, Nayan Khanolkar, INDIA
Winner, Urban At night, in the Aarey Milk Colony in a suburb of Mumbai bordering Sanjay Gandhi National Park, leopards slip ghost-like through the maze of alleys, looking for food (especially stray dogs). The Warli people living in the area respect the big cats. Positioning his flashes to mimic the alley’s usual lighting and his camera so that a passing cat would not dominate the frame, he finally – after four months – got the shot he wanted. With a fleeting look of enquiry in the direction of the camera click, a leopard went about its business alongside people’s homes. Nayan hopes that those living in Mumbai’s new high-rise developments now impinging on the park will learn from the Warli how to co‐exist with the original inhabitants of the land.
2/10 Star player, Luis Javier Sandoval, MEXICO
Winner, Impressions As soon as Luis slipped into the water, the curious young California sea lions came over for a better look. He had arrived the night before at the island of Espíritu Santo in the Gulf of California, sleeping aboard his boat so that he would be ready to dive at sunrise. He had in mind a picture that needed warm light, a slow shutter speed and friendly subjects. One of the pups dived down, swimming gracefully with its strong fore-flippers (sea lions are also remarkably agile on land, since they can control each of their hind ‐flippers independently). It grabbed a starfish from the bottom and started throwing it to Luis. Angling his camera up towards the dawn light – just as the pup offered him the starfish and another youngster slipped by close to the rocks – he created his artistic impression of the sea lion’s playful nature.
3/10 The sand canvas, Rudi Sebastian, GERMANY
Winner, Details The pristine white sand of Brazil’s Lençóis Maranhenses National Park offers a blank canvas to the rain. In the dry season, sand from the coast is blown by powerful Atlantic winds as far as 50 kilometres (30 miles) inland, sculpting a vast expanse of crescent-shaped dunes up to 40 metres (130 feet) high. With the onset of the rains, the magic begins. An impermeable layer beneath the sand allows water to collect in the dune valleys, forming thousands of transient lagoons, some more than 90 metres (295 feet) long. Bacteria and algae tint the clear water in countless shades of green and blue, while streams carrying sediment from the distant rainforest make their mark with browns and blacks. Patterns appear as the water evaporates, leaving behind organic remains. Shooting almost vertically down from a small aircraft with the door removed, avoiding perspective or scale, he created his striking image. A few weeks later, the scene had evaporated.
4/10 Snapper party, Tony Wu, USA
Winner, Underwater For several days each month (in tandem with the full moon), thousands of two‐spot red snappers gather to spawn around Palau in the western Pacific Ocean. On this occasion, with perfect anticipation, he managed to capture a dynamic arc of spawning fish amid clouds of eggs in the oblique morning light. Still obsessed by the dynamics and magnitude of this natural wonder, he will be returning to Palau next April to witness once again the spectacular snapper party.
5/10 Eviction attempt, Ganesh H Shankar, INDIA
Winner, Birds These Indian rose-ringed parakeets were not happy. They had returned to their roosting and nesting hole high up in a tree in India’s Keoladeo National Park (also known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) to find that a Bengal monitor lizard had taken up residence. They would then harass it when it tried to come out to bask. This went on for two days. But the action only lasted a couple of seconds at a time and was fast-moving. These Indian birds are highly adaptable, and escaped captive parakeets have founded populations in many countries. In Europe, where they are known as ring-necked parakeets, they are accused of competing for nest holes with some native species, such as nuthatches, and even bats, but in turn, other birds such as starlings are quite capable of evicting the parakeets from their nest holes.
6/10 The moon and the crow, Gideon Knight, UK
Winner, Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016 A crow in a tree in a park: a common enough scene. It was one that Gideon had seen many times near his home in London’s Valentines Park, which he visits regularly to take photographs. Positioning himself on a slope opposite, he tried to capture the perfect composition. But the crow kept moving along the branch and turning its head away, and so getting a silhouette of it with the moon in the frame meant Gideon had to keep moving, too. Then, just as the light was about to fade beyond the point that photography was possible, his wish came true, and an ordinary London scene turned into something magical.
7/10 Requiem for an owl, Mats Andersson, SWEDEN
Winner, Black and White Every day in early spring, Mats walked in the forest near his home in Bashult, southern Sweden, enjoying the company of a pair of Eurasian pygmy owls – until the night he found one of them lying dead on the forest floor. Pygmy owls, with their distinctive rounded heads and lack of ear tufts, are the smallest owls in Europe, barely 19 centimetres (7½ inches) long, though with large feet that enable them to carry prey almost as big as themselves. He found this owl dead, too, and suspects that it and its mate may have been killed by one of the larger owls in the forest, not for food but because, in the breeding season, it didn’t tolerate other birds of prey in its territory.
8/10 The pangolin pit, Paul Hilton, UK/AUSTRALIA
Winner, The Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Single image Nothing prepared Paul for what he saw: some 4,000 defrosting pangolins (5 tons) from one of the largest seizures of the animals on record. These Asian victims, mostly Sunda pangolins, were part of a huge seizure – a joint operation between Indonesia’s police and the World Conservation Society – found hidden in a shipping container behind a façade of frozen fish, ready for export from the major port of Belawan in Sumatra. The dead pangolins were driven to a specially dug pit and then incinerated. The live ones were taken north and released in the rainforest. ‘Wildlife crime is big business,’ says Paul. ‘It will stop only when the demand stops.’
9/10 Wind composition, Valter Binotto, ITALY
Winner, Plants and Fungi With every gust of wind, showers of pollen were released, lit up by the winter sunshine. The hazel tree was near Valter’s home in northern Italy, and to create the dark background, he positioned himself to backlight the flowers. Hazel has both male and female flowers on the same tree, though the pollen must be transferred between trees for fertilization. And now recent research suggests that bees may also play a role. The catkins are an important source of pollen for early bees and have a bee‐friendly structure, while the red colour of the female flowers may entice insects to land on them. ‘The hardest part was capturing the female flowers motionless while the catkins were moving,’ explains Valter. ‘I searched for flowers on a short branch that was more stable.’ Using a long exposure to capture the pollen’s flight and a reflector to highlight the catkins, he took many pictures before the wind finally delivered the composition he had in mind.
10/10 Entwined lives, Tim Laman, USA
Winner, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016 A young male orangutan makes the 30-metre (100-foot) climb up the thickest root of the strangler fig that has entwined itself around a tree emerging high above the canopy. The backdrop is the rich rainforest of the Gunung Palung National Park, in West Kalimantan, one of the few protected orangutan strongholds in Indonesian Borneo. He had to do three days of climbing up and down himself, by rope, to place in position several GoPro cameras that he could trigger remotely to give him a chance of not only a wide‐ angle view of the forest below but also a view of the orangutan’s face from above. This shot was the one he had long visualized, looking down on the orangutan within its forest home.
The rusty patched bumble bee is among a group of pollinators, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Without them, our forests, parks, meadows and shrublands, and the abundant, vibrant life they support, cannot survive, and our crops require laborious, costly pollination by hand," it said.
Crops including blueberries and cranberries depend on them and they are almost the only insect pollinator of tomatoes in the US.
There are around 4,000 bee species native to the US, including Hawaii.
However, a recent study by the Centre for Biological Diversity found that more than 700 of them may be close to extinction.