American bumblebee populations plummet 90 per cent

The insect has now totally disappeared from eight US states

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Wednesday 29 September 2021 18:23 BST

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The American bumblebee population has plummeted by almost 90 per cent and is edging its way towards Endangered Species Act protection, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency says that adding the insect to the ESA “may be warranted” and will now carry out a one year review.

In the past two decades bumblebee numbers have dropped 89 per cent in the US and they have completely disappeared from eight states.

Those states are Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming.

And in New York State the American bumblebee population has dropped by 99 per cent, while other regions in the southeast and midwest have seen declines of more than 50 per cent.

But despite the worrying declines, the American bumblebee is currently not protected by any state or federal endangered species laws.

Officials say that the population has been hard hit by a string of threats, including habitat loss, pesticides, disease, climate change, and competition from (non-native) honeybees.

Pesticides have also reduced the population’s survival, harms reproduction, as well as bumblebee immune systems.

A weakened immune system then makes the bumblebee more vulnerable to diseases spread by domesticated bumblebees and honeybees.

The announcement comes in response to a 2021 by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Bombus Pollinator Association of Law Students of Albany Law School.

“This is an important first step in preventing the extinction of this fuzzy black-and-yellow beauty that was once a familiar sight,” said Jess Tyler, a Center for Biological Diversity scientist and petition co-author.

“To survive unchecked threats of disease, habitat loss and pesticide poisoning, American bumblebees need the full protection of the Endangered Species Act right now.”

In a memo published by the Federal Register, officials said that an initial 90-day review indicated the American bumblebee was among three animals that should be studied more for addition to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

Joining the bumblebee for further study is the Siuslaw hairy-necked tiger beetle and Long Valley speckled dace, which is part of the minnow family.

The largest remaining populations of American bumblebees are found in the southern Great Plains and southeastern states.

But the bees, who have a distinctive black and yellow colour pattern, are also found in the deserts of the southwest, and as far north as North Dakota and Maine.

The decline of the American bumblebee population is mirrored by a similar downward trend in many of the country’s 46 species of bumblebees and roughly 3,600 species of native bees.

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