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Feds Lay Out Recovery Plan for Endangered Bumble Bee

In addition to the Midwest and East Coast, the rusty patched bumble bee was also common in many parts of Canada. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
In addition to the Midwest and East Coast, the rusty patched bumble bee was also common in many parts of Canada. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
January 27, 2020

MADISON, Wis. -- A certain kind of bumble bee that once thrived in the Midwest and along the East Coast is now endangered, and federal officials are moving forward with plans to reverse the population decline of the insect.

The rusty patched bumble bee was added to the federal Endangered Species List in 2017. Experts say the bee's population has been wiped out by nearly 90% and it's only present in about a dozen states, including Wisconsin.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a plan to help this pollinator stage a comeback. Agency spokeswoman Georgia Parham says the plan centers around habitat fixes.

"Creating and restoring habitat in areas where the bee now exists, and creating habitat in other parts of its historic range," she explains.

The agency says exposure to pesticides and a disease-causing pathogen also contributed to the population decline.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on the recovery plan, which will be used as a guide for conservationists to try to get the rusty patched bumble bee off the endangered list.

The agency was sued by the Natural Resources Defense Council for not moving fast enough, but that case was settled.

Parham says the bee has been able to hang on in Midwestern states because there's still a lot of prairie lands it can use as habitat.

In addition to federal action, she says backyard planters in these areas can also help the bee recover.

"People that like to attract pollinators and butterflies," she points out. "If you're doing that, you're going to create habitat for species like the rusty patched bumble bee."

The chubby looking bee got its name because of the distinct black and yellow rusted patch that runs along its back.

The public comment period for the recovery plan runs through Feb. 24.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI