“Alarming” — For the First Time Ever, Bees Added to the Endangered Species List…What Does It Mean For The World
On September 22 we reported that the rusty-patched bumblebee was proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be listed as an endangered species. This is a wake-up call to the problem of habitat destruction and pesticide use – particularly neonicotinoid pesticides – as this native bee is the first in the continental U.S. to be formally proposed for endangered species listing. However, as bees are concerned, that was just the tip of the iceberg.
While the plight of the bumblebee is finally getting the attention it deserves, other native bees are on a fast track to extinction and have already been declared endangered.
On September 30, for the first time ever, bees were put on the Endangered Species list.
Seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bee in the genus Hylaeus, once the most abundant insects on the tropical islands, are now so scarce that they one of the state’s least observed pollinators.
“What we saw was really alarming—the bees were doing a lot worse than we thought,” says Cynthia King, an entomologist with Hawaii’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
The Xerces Society, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting invertebrates and their habitats, submitted a petition in 2010 to protect the seven yellow-faced bee species, so named for a golden mark on between the males’ eyes.
These tiny, beautiful creatures are critically important to the pollination of native flowering plants and the unique island ecosystems of Hawaii. Over millions of years, the bees and certain flowers have evolved specialized plant-pollinator interactions where both organisms derive benefits. If the bees disappear, certain flowering plants can disappear too and this has a domino effect in the ecosystem.
The yellow-faced bees have also evolved curious nesting behaviors.
“To figure out the life cycle of this little-seen insect, University of Hawai’i entomologist Jason Graham has studied—for the first time—where H. anthracinus lives and nests on Honolulu’s Ka Iwi coast and in the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on the North Shore.
He found that the bees like to nest in holes in coral rocks that have washed ashore or in the hollow stems of a few coastal plants. After laying eggs, females seal the holes with a type of waterproof cellophane.”
But island inhabitants are especially susceptible to invasive species, such as rival Hylaeus bees from India, and ants – which were
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