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  • A rusty patched bumble bee which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing for federal protection as an endangered species

    A rusty patched bumble bee which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing for federal protection as an endangered species | Photo: Reuters

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Listing under the Endangered Species Act generally restricts activities known to harm the creature and requires the government to prepare a recovery plan.

The rusty patched bumble bee, a prized but vanishing pollinator once familiar to much of North America, was listed Tuesday as an endangered species, becoming the first wild bee in the continental United States to gain such federal protection.

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One of several species facing sharp declines, the bumble bee known to scientists as Bombus affinis has plunged nearly 90 percent in abundance and distribution since the late 1990s, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency listed the insect after determining it to be in danger of extinction across all or portions of its range, attributing its decline to a mix of factors, including disease, pesticides, climate change and habitat loss.

Named for the conspicuous reddish blotch on its abdomen, the rusty patched bumble bee once flourished across 28 states, primarily in the upper Midwest and Northeast — from South Dakota to Connecticut — and in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Today, only a few small, scattered populations remain in 13 states and Ontario, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

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