Bees were added to the United States list of endangered species for the first time. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made seven species of bees endangered. The seven species are all yellow-faced bees that are native to the islands of Hawaii. These are the first bees in the United States that are given protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Yellow-faced Bees Receive Protected Status
The new rule for the protection of the bees was published in the Federal Register on Friday. It describes the yellow-faced bees. They have “yellow-to-white facial markings”. They look like small wasps, except they have “plumose [branched] hairs on the body that are longest on the sides of the thorax, which readily distinguish them from wasps”.
The yellow-faced bee is the only kind of bee that is native to Hawaii. That means that it reached the Hawaiian Islands by itself. A factsheet from the Master Gardner Program at the University of Hawaii tells us more about this type of bee. From the original colonist bee, they evolved into more than sixty known species that are endemic to the islands. Also, about 10 percent of the world’s yellow-faced bees are found in North America.
But the populations for these seven species are in danger. Their numbers are getting smaller and smaller, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For example, one species, Hylaeus anthracinus used to be found in several dozen locations in Hawaii. Now you can only find it in about 15 locations on the islands. Other species are in even greater danger. You can find Hylaeus hilaris and another species, Hylaeus kuakea in just one location each.
A Difficult Life for Bees
There are many threats that the bees have to survive. One of them is the destruction of their habitat as a consequence of urbanization. The development of large areas on the islands means bees lose their natural habitat. Another threat for them is the introduction of plant species that are not native to the Hawaiian Islands. Nonnative predators are also a danger that the bees have to overcome. Other events that lower the population of bees are wildfires. But other natural events like hurricanes, tsunamis or a period of drought can impact their numbers.
Gregory Koob works for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. He says that bees having protected status will allow for the implementation of recovery programs. Authorities will be able to access funds to help the situation. They will also be able to take the necessary steps to limit the harm coming from outside sources. All federal agencies have to consult with the US Fish and Wildlife Service when it comes to endangered species. The bees having protected status means they will benefit from the protection of the Endangered Species Act in the face of increasing development.
The Xerces Society is a group that advocated the classification of yellow-faced bees as endangered. In a statement they said that the protected status is “excellent news”. They also mentioned that there is a lot work that needs to happen to make sure that the bees in Hawaii thrive.
Image source: here.