Biodiversity Alert: Bees Added to Endangered Species List

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has added bees to the list of endangered species via the Endangered Species Act for the first time ever. Seven species of yellow-faced bees in Hawaii will now receive protection to prevent their potential extinction.

The yellow-faced, or masked, bee is the only species of bee indigenous to Hawaii. Although dwindling bee populations in general have been the subject of concern, the bees in the island state of Hawaii face some special concerns due to their geographic location.

The yellow-faced bees of Hawaii, who once thrived there evolved into 63 known species from the original colony of masked bees, with Hawaii being home to 10 percent of all the world’s known yellow-faced bees. The once-thriving bee populations of Hawaii, who are vulnerable to environmental changes, wildfires, loss of native plants, introduction of nonnative plants, urbanization and natural events such as hurricanes, have dwindled in number over the years.

Three of the seven bee species added to the endangered list have experienced such a reduction in population that they are now only found in limited areas: Hylaeus anthracinus was once found in dozens of areas on the islands and is now limited to 15 areas; Hylaeus hilaris and Hylaeus kuakea are currently found in only one area.

The Xerces Society, an international nonprofit organization for the conservation of insects, lauded the addition of Hawaii’s seven species of yellow-faced bees to the Federal Register as endangered species, but added that there is still much work to do not just to save Hawaii’s bees, but to return them to their former thriving populations.

It isn’t only Hawaii’s bees that have received the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Along with the seven species of Hawaii’s masked bees, 39 plant species native to the island and three of its animals – the band-rumped storm-petrel, the orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly and the anchialine pool shrimp have also been added to the endangered species list. The designation now means the rules of protection will go into effect at the end of October 2016.

Related Reading: The Global Disappearing Act of the Bees — Why Now?

Honeybees Die by the Millions After Mass Mosquito Spray

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