On Wednesday, September 21, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) proposed listing the bumble bee under federal protection as an endangered species. This is the first species of bee to be formally proposed to be listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, according to the Japan Times.
Since the late 1990s, the bumble bee, or the Bombus affinis, population has heavily fallen. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the bumble bee as an indicator species, meaning that their health and population reflects the condition of their environment and ecosystem. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the population has dropped more than 90 percent. Not only has the bumble bee population dropped, but several other wild species of bees have declined as well.
Bumble bees are highly valued in the environment because they are a key part of pollinating wild flowers and crops. It is estimated that bumble bees pollinate about a third of all crops in the U.S. and possess an economic value of $3.5 billion, according to Fortune.
There are more than 47 varieties of bumble bees in the U.S. and Canada. About one fourth of the varieties are estimated to be in danger of extinction. The U.S. FWS attributed disease, climate change, pesticides and loss of habitat as to why the population has been declining. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation reported that pesticides are heavily responsible as the chemicals used are deadly to bee populations since the chemicals can remain in the soil and in plants for up to six years.