For the first time in the nation’s history, the United States decided to put bees on the endangered species list. Authorities said the move is the result of a nearly decade-old effort.
Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has granted seven bee species native to Hawaii federal protection. The said species are known as “yellow-faced bees” for their facial markings that make them
look very similar to wasps.
Experts explained that protecting these bees is critical for Hawaii’s indigenous vegetation. The tiny insects pollinate many plant species which are also threatened across the state.
Karl Magnacca, a Hawaii bee expert, said he was glad efforts to grant bees the protection they need paid off.
“It’s good to see it finally come to fruition,”
Magnacca also said.
He explained yellow-faced bees’ pollination work helps preserve the structure of native forests in Hawaii. This is because the bugs usually prefer dominant trees and shrubs in state.
Magnacca has invested a lot of time and effort in the initial research on yellow-faced bees and the risks they faced. A conservationist nonprofit group called the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation commissioned the research.
The Oregon-based group said it took the name ‘Xerces’ as a reminder of the first known butterfly species which went extinct in North America: the Xerces blue butterfly.
Xerces Society had tried to convince authorities to give the seven bee species federal protection under the Endangered Species Act for years.
The group submitted its first petition regarding the yellow-faced bees in 2009. So, it was extremely pleased to hear the news last week.
A spokesperson for the Xerces Society described the news as “excellent,” but he called for more efforts to protect the tiny insects. The group pointed out that the Fish and Wildlife Service has so far failed to secure areas of the land where bees thrive as “critical habitat.”
The federal agency found the numbers of yellow-faced bees dwindled in recent years because of multiple causes. According to researchers, invasive species, diseases, and human activities are the main culprits.
The agency concluded on Sept. 30, 2016, that the seven bee species currently have too few remaining members to allow them to adapt to environmental changes. Additionally, the USFWS believes global warming would just make things worse for the bees.
More Work Needs to Be Done
Magnacca, on the other hand, noted that there are many other rare insect species that need immediate protection. He explained Hawaii’s “huge diversity” can only survive if these species are granted at least threatened status.
“There’s a huge amount of work that needs to be done.”
In the meantime, local conservation efforts seem to have paid off. In 2015, Obama administration unveiled a plan called the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honeybees and Other Pollinators.
Conservationists rejoiced at the news. Back then, wildlife biologist Sam Droege jokingly said the nation’s pollinators are an “unpaid and invisible workforce” which silently maintains all life on Earth without asking for health-care subsidies. Droege was glad the insects finally got the attention they deserve.