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Meet Rusty Patched Bumble Bee – While It's Still Around

The rusty patched bumble bee used to be common in parts of the state, but has seen its population plummet in recent years. Courtesy: Rich Hatfield/The Xerces Society
The rusty patched bumble bee used to be common in parts of the state, but has seen its population plummet in recent years. Courtesy: Rich Hatfield/The Xerces Society
September 28, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Protections could be on the way for a bumblebee that used to be commonly found in parts of Minnesota and across the Upper Midwest, but is now threatened with extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun a year-long review to determine if an Endangered Species Act listing is warranted for the rusty patched bumble bee.

Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director for The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, says the bee is facing a number of threats, including habitat loss, pesticides and diseases passed on from commercially managed bumblebees.

"There's quite a bit of concern among people who study bumblebees that commercial bumblebees are spreading diseases to wild bumblebees and that is leading to their decline," she points out.

Jepsen says the rusty patched bumble bee has disappeared from 87 percent of its historic range and even where it still does exist, its populations are as much as 95 percent smaller than they were just a few decades ago.

Jepsen says the rusty patched bumble bee is an excellent pollinator of wildflowers and numerous crops including apple and alfalfa.

She notes that the push for their listing comes as the federal government is looking to protect bees and other pollinators, such as the monarch butterfly.

"Earlier this year, the White House released a strategy to protect native bees, honey bees and monarch butterflies,” she says. “And I think the attention from the White House that has been given to pollinators has been really great for native pollinator conservation."

The National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators is focused on protecting, restoring and enhancing their habitat.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN