For the first time in history, a group of bees in the U.S. will be protected under the Endangered Species Act, following a recent announcement from wildlife officials.
The group of bees, who are commonly known as yellow-faced bees because of the markings on their faces, are endemic only to the Hawaiian islands. While there are dozens of species, scientists identified several of them who are at risk of extinction and have been calling for their protection for years.
In 2009, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to protect seven of the most at risk species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and now it’s celebrating a win for these bees.
The listing protects seven species, including Hylaeus anthracinus, Hylaeus longiceps, Hylaeus assimulans, Hylaeus hilaris, Hylaeus kuakea and Hylaeus mana.
The listing unfortunately doesn’t come with a designation of critical habitat, but hopefully that will change after the FWS analyzes more sites. Gregory Koob, conservation and restoration team manager for the FWS in Honolulu, told the AP that for now the listing will allow for recovery programs, more funding and will limit their harm from outside sources.
These bees face a host of threats ranging from habitat loss and fragmentation due to development, pollution, wildfires, invasive plants and animals and climate change. It’s hoped that by helping these bees survive, the native plants they rely on – some of which are also endangered – will also survive with them, and in turn provide food for other wildlife.
“The USFWS decision is excellent news for these bees, but there is much work that needs to be done to ensure that Hawaii’s bees thrive,” wrote Matthew Shepherd, Communications Director for the Xerces Society.