Endangered Bees

Seven species of Hawaiian bees are now listed as endangered. Photograph by Jason Graham

Seven species of Hawaiian bees are now listed as endangered. Photograph by Jason Graham

October 14, 2016| Category: Observing

The Buzz about Bees.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has added seven species of yellow-faced bees to the endangered species list. This federal recognition of seven Hawaiian bee species as endangered may be just the tip of the iceberg. The announcement signals vulnerabilities, not just for bees, but also an increasing awareness of the importance of wild bees as pollinators that maintain the crops and natural communities humans rely on.

Once some of Hawaii’s most abundant bee species, yellow-faced bees belonging to the genus Hylaeus have diminished due to habitat loss, extreme weather, and invasive species. Deforestation, human development, climate change, and competitive pressure from introduced insects have all contributed to their population declines.

But the yellow-faced bees are not alone in the challenges they face. Worldwide, bee populations, especially honeybees, have received attention because of their rapid declines caused by “colony collapse disorder” and other factors, such as pesticides and mite-transmitted pathogens. Wild bees receive less attention than their honey-producing counterparts, but are just as important in pollinating agricultural crops and wild plants. The 4,000 species of wild bees in the U.S., including numerous species of bumble bees, are facing many of the same human-driven afflictions, from climate change and habitat loss to pesticide effects.

Even in Vermont, our resident wild bumble bees are on the decline. The rusty-patched bumble bee and the yellow-banded bumble bee are among the species experiencing serious population reductions. You can learn more about their life history and recent conservation strategies at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

The yellow-banded bumble bee, once common in Vermont, has experienced drastic declines. Photo from the VT Center for Ecostudies

The yellow-banded bumble bee, once common in Vermont, has experienced drastic declines. Photo from the VT Center for Ecostudies

Learn more about what you can do to enhance pollinator habitats in your own backyard with the Vermont Land Trust’s tips.

Tags: Bees, Endangered species, Fairbanks Museum, Natural History