River talk

Bumblebees in decline

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services completes its initial review on the American bumblebee

By SCOTT RANDO
Posted 10/20/21

When we think of bumblebees, we think of them as common; indeed, they are frequent visitors to gardens and fields of wildflowers alike. It’s hard to not see bumblebees during a walk on a trail …

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River talk

Bumblebees in decline

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services completes its initial review on the American bumblebee

Posted

When we think of bumblebees, we think of them as common; indeed, they are frequent visitors to gardens and fields of wildflowers alike. It’s hard to not see bumblebees during a walk on a trail or by the side of a road. They pollinate both native flowers and invasive weeds. My anecdotal observations seem to indicate around 20 bumblebees or more for every honeybee observed.

When they see a bumblebee, most people call it a bumblebee. However, entomologists have identified 49 distinct species of bumblebees in the United States and about 20 species inhabit the eastern part of the country.

One of those species, the American bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus), was once plentiful throughout most of the U.S. Recently, however, steep population declines have been observed in many areas, including this region. Several factors are attributed to the decline of the American bumblebee, and many local, state and federal agencies have been researching the causes of decline and how to prevent it.

On September 28, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) published a press release announcing the completion of initial reviews on Endangered Species Act petitions for five species of flora and fauna. At the top of the list is the American bumblebee.

“The American bumblebee is a large yellow and black insect found across most of the continental U.S. and in some areas of Canada and Mexico,” the release reads. “Within that wide range, the pollinator is a common visitor to backyards, farm field, and wild landscapes. The species is potentially threatened by disease, habitat destruction, livestock grazing, pesticide use, loss of genetic diversity, climate change and competition from non-native honeybees.”

The USF&WS has commenced a 12-month status review in which supporting documents can be reviewed and public comments can be received. The URL to the docket is here: https://bit.ly/3aIP1WG.

The USF&WS guide to eastern U.S. bumblebees can be found here: https://bit.ly/3mUvkAF.

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