The population of the rusty patched bumblebee, historically widespread along the east coast of North America, has plummeted to just 8 percent of its historical population, reports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the buzzing insect could soon be flying off into the sunset permanently. To avoid this fate, they have submitted a proposal to classify it as an endangered species, making it the first species of bee in the continental U.S. to be granted that protection.
The death of millions of hives is attributed to a multitude of factors. Bees face threats from microparasitic diseases, pesticides, habitat loss, and climate change. Studies attribute the bees' population decline to the widespread use of certain insecticides, as the introduction of their use in large-scale farming coincides with the beginning of hive deaths.
It's a crisis not just for the insect, but for us as well. The bees are an important pollinator of many crops, including grains, berries, flowers, and more. The endangerment of bees puts the balance of biodiversity and the security of food supply at huge risk.
"Providing a landscape that sustains all of our native bees will require continued investment by public agencies, as well as efforts from private residents in both urban and rural areas,” said Eric Lee-Mäder, pollinator program co-director at the Xerces Society. More than ever, we need to pursue imperative studies in the protection of our environment, keeping in mind our deep connection to our surroundings.