21 March 2017 – An Historic Day: Protection for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

First bee in the continental United States to become an endangered species


Today, protection of the rusty patched bumble bee under the Endangered Species Act takes effect, making this the first bee in the continental United States to be federally protected. This historic moment comes as a result of a listing petition filed by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Steps can now be taken to work toward the recovery of this species, which previously was common from Minnesota to the Atlantic.

“We are thrilled to see one of North America’s most endangered species receive the protection it needs,” said Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species at the Xerces Society. “Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces – from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to diseases.”

This is the culmination of work completed by the Xerces Society, numerous colleagues in the scientific community, our partners at Natural Resources Defense Council, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help protect a critically imperiled animal. Now that the rusty patched bumble bee is listed as an endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority to develop and implement a recovery plan for this species, which has the potential to have a positive effect on suitable habitat throughout much of the eastern United States.

“While this listing clearly supports the rusty patched bumble bee, the entire suite of pollinators that share its habitat, and which are so critical to natural ecosystems and agriculture, will also benefit,” said Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist at the Xerces Society. “This is a positive step towards the conservation of this species, and we now have to roll up our sleeves to begin the actual on-the-ground conservation that will help it move toward recovery.”

The effort to protect the rusty patched bumble bee has been long, and the task has been helped along by numerous people. In particular, the Xerces Society is grateful for the many individuals who participated in citizen science projects, initially via Project Bumble Bee and since 2013 through Bumble Bee Watch. Observations from citizen scientists had a critical role in understanding the rusty patched bumble bee’s current distribution. Special thanks go to photographer Clay Bolt and filmmaker Neil Losin of Day’s Edge Productions, who produced the award-winning film, A Ghost in the Making.

The overwhelming scientific and public support, including the more than 128,000 people that signed a petition urging endangered species protection, for this species has been incredibly heartening. Few disappearing species have engendered this level of support for protection. Because of this collective effort the rusty patched bumble bee now has a chance – and that is something we can all celebrate.