The rusty patched bumblebee, in a "race against extinction," was placed on the endangered species list for the first time by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
According to the agency’s website, a dramatic population decrease was the cause for the bee’s placement on the endangered list. The bee had been common across 28 states and two Canadian provinces, the wildlife service reported, but has experienced an 87 percent population decline and is now limited to 13 states and one province.
"Our top priority is to act quickly to prevent extinction of the rusty patched bumblebee," wildlife service Midwest regional director Tom Melius said in a statement. "Listing the bee as endangered will help us mobilize partners and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline."
Rusty patched bumblebees pollinate many plants, including economically important crops such as tomatoes, cranberries and peppers, the wildlife service said. The service added that causes of the decline in populations are believed to be loss of habitat; disease and parasites; use of pesticides that directly or indirectly kill the bees; climate change, which can affect the availability of the flowers they depend on; and extremely small population size.
The endangered designation is made under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 for species at risk of becoming extinct throughout all or a portion of their range.