On March 21, 2017, Bombus affinis, the rusty patched bumble bee, officially became part of the Endangered Species List.
Once common in the Eastern U.S., the species has been seen in only 13 states and one Canadian province since 2000. The bee is believed to occur in IA, IL, IN, MA, ME, MN, OH, VA and WI, in just 53 counties.
Causes of the decline in rusty patched bumble bee populations are believed to be loss of habitat, disease and parasites, use of pesticides that directly or indirectly kill the bees, climate change, which can affect the availability of the flowers they depend on, and extremely small population size. Most likely, a combination of these factors has caused the decline in rusty patched bumble bees.
The species is one of the longest-active species in the year, emerging in April and staying active through September. That means a wide range of floral resources are required to support colonies.
Now that B. affinis is on the ESA list, federal agencies must consult with the Fish & Wildlife Service to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize its continued existence. It also means that private landowners are prohibited from “the take of animals listed as federally threatened or endangered.” ESA defines “take” as “. . . to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” U.S. Fish & Wildlife has issued voluntary guidance for rusty patched bumble bee.
The Fish & Wildlife Service believes that monitoring programs will be put in place to track sightings by groups such as Bumble Bee Watch, a citizen science effort to track North American bumble bees, and the Xerces Society. The International Union of Concerned Scientists Conservation Breeding Specialist Group has developed general conservation guidelines for bumble bees.
- Xerces Society’s Bombus affinis identification poster.
- Q&A: UVA Bee Expert Discusses Bumblebee, Now Officially Listed as Endangered by Fariss Samarrai University of Virginia.
April 3, 2017 NewTerrain.