IMAGE CREDITS: MARK KENT/FLICKR.
For the first time, a bumblebee species has been placed on the endangered species list by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The species was put on the endangered species list this past Tuesday after biologists noted a sharp decline in their population.
20 years ago , the Rusty patched bumblebee was on nearly every street corner in 13 states in the US and the one province in Canada they inhabited.
Now, very few people have ever even seen one.
It is estimated the population has shrunk by a whopping 87% since the end of the 1990s.
They are rapidly declining due to a number of issues, but top culprits include loss of habitat and use of pesticides which have inadvertently killed many bees.
Other reasons for their swift disappearance are herbicides used in homes and diseases that have affected their population.
Wildlife Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius said of their decline:
“The rusty patched bumblebee is among a group of pollinators, including the monarch butterfly, experiencing serious declines across the country. Why is this important? Pollinators are small but mighty parts of the natural mechanism that sustains us and our world. Without them … our crops require laborious, costly pollination by hand.”
The rusty patched bumblebee is one of 47 bumblebee species in the United States.
But if their serious decline in just a little over a decade is any indication, several other species will likely soon join them.
In fact, it is estimated that 25% of bumblebees in North America are at a risk of becoming extinct.
Seven other species of bees have previously been listed as endangered, most of them located in Hawaii.
Bees, such as the rusty patched bumblebee, are incredibly important as they pollinate 35% of the world’s food.
As Melius stated above, without them it would require innovation, extreme cost and new inventions to help keep food and crops growing for humans to consume.
This could cause issues in the food supply as well as severely affect the profits of farmers–as it already has with beekeepers.
The Agriculture Department states that there were 3.5 million honeybee colonies in 1989.
By 2006, the number fell to 2.5 million and has not been able to recover as of yet.
Written by Fiona Miller