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NATURE

Bumblebee Buzz

January 12th, 2017

Rusty patched bumblebee photo credit: Dan Mullen, via Flickr/Creative Commons

Between President-elect Donald Trump taking over as president in a little over a week and outgoing President Barack Obama finishing up, there’s a lot going on in and around Washington DC and the White House these days. Good-bye speeches, press conferences, inauguration planning, and potential cabinet picks being vetted (checked to make sure they’re good choices) … so there was hardly any buzz about the bumblebee President Obama just named to the endangered species list on January 10th, one of his final acts as president.

Specifically, the rusty patched bumblebee was added to the list. There are many different kinds of bees but this is the first time a bumblebee has been on the endangered species list in the U.S.

It’s also the first time a bee in the lower 48 states has been named (there have been bees declared endangered on the Hawaiian islands).

The rusty patched bumblebee population has gone down by nearly 90% … and you can now only find them in small pockets of populations in just 13 states, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Being on the endangered list doesn’t just tell us there’s a problem but it also gives the bees hope to get some help. Some of the causes believed to have contributed to the rusty patched bumblebees’ decline include: pesticide use, loss of habitat, climate change and disease, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service . So now actions will be taken to try to limit pesticides around the bees and rebuild the habitats they thrive in. That will take hard work and care.

What can we do?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends avoiding using pesticides on your gardens if possible.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation recommends creating a bee-friendly habitat. 

You can also be a citizen scientist … a bee watcher (kind of like in the Dr. Seuss book!). You can learn more about how to spot bees and upload photos of them to bumblebeewatch.org .

It’s not just the rusty patched bumblebees’ lives that depend on it. It’s helpful to other bee populations as well as butterflies and other “pollinators”. The video below from ASAP Science helps explain. Or you can read HTE’s previous story on bees as important pollinators of many of the foods we eat called, “ The Secret Death of Bees .”

We should help just for the sake of the bees, but the quality of our own lives depends on helping them as well … so let’s get these bees buzzing again…

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