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Bees Added To U.S. Endangered Species List For 1st Time

bees endangered pollinators hawaii extinction pollution habitat

A U.N.-sponsored report released in February found that "about 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species (such as bees and butterflies) are facing extinction."

This could have major implications for world food supply, because "about 75 percent of the world's food crops ... depend at least partly on pollination."
Plant pollinators are under threat around the world. A U.N.-sponsored report released in February found that "about 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species (such as bees and butterflies) are facing extinction." This could have major implications for world food supply, because "about 75 percent of the world's food crops ... depend at least partly on pollination."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given endangered status to seven species of yellow-faced bees native to the islands. These are the first bees in the country to be protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to the Xerces Society, which advocated for the new designation.

  
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The new rule designating protections for the bees states that yellow-faced bees are known "for their yellow-to-white facial markings." They look like small wasps, except for their "plumose [branched] hairs on the body that are longest on the sides of the thorax, which readily distinguish them from wasps."

The yellow-faced bee is the only bee native to Hawaii, meaning that it was able to reach the Hawaiian islands on its own. From that one original colonist they evolved into 63 known endemic species, about 10% of the world's yellow-faced bees and more than are found in this genus in all of North America.

But the populations of these seven species are getting smaller and smaller. The seven endangered species are impacted by a wide variety of threats, including habitat destruction because of urbanization or nonnative animals, the introduction of nonnative plant species, wildfires, nonnative predators and natural events such as hurricanes, tsunamis and drought.

The protected status "will allow authorities to implement recovery programs, access funding and limit their harm from outside sources," said the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The rule, which goes into effect at the end of the month, also gives the endangered designation to 39 plant species found on the islands and to three other animals native to Hawaii.

The Xerces Society called the new rule "excellent news" but added that "there is much work that needs to be done to ensure that Hawaii's bees thrive."

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