Bees are now officially an American endangered species for the first time

We’ve known for years that bee populations are in severe decline, and that’s seriously bad news for human populations. Around a third of the world’s food production relies on bee pollination, and while humans would probably find a way to muddle on, it would certainly make things much harder – especially when we’ve got quite enough environmental problems on our plates dealing with the impacts of climate change.

But just to focus the mind somewhat, not only do bees contribute more to UK GDP than the royal family, but this graphic from Whole Foods illustrates the scale of the problem, should our bee-friends choose to down tools:whole_foods_without_bees

Despite various changes to track and assist bee populations, we still don’t know exactly why they’re in trouble: parasites, climate change, pollution and pesticides have all been considered, but whatever it is, the numbers are definitely dropping. And now seven varieties of yellow-faced bee have declined so dramatically that for the first time they’re on the United States endangered species list.

Seven species of bee native to Hawaii have made the list compiled by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This new protection will “allow authorities to implement recovery programmes, access funding and limit their harm from outside sources,” Gregory Koob from the US Fish and Wildlife Service told the Associated Press.

While it’s not clear what is impacting bees so dramatically on a global basis, Sarina Jepson, director of endangered species and aquatic programs for the Xerces Society, has a long list of Hawaiian threats, including “feral pigs, invasive ants, loss of native habitat due to invasive plants, fire, as well as development, especially in some [of] the coastal areas.”

Varieties of yellow-faced bees can be found elsewhere in the world, but these ones are indigenous to Hawaii and are responsible for the pollination of certain plant species that are native to the islands. Apparently, the government is considering adding the rusty-patched bumble bee to the protection list too – and that species is found across the United States.

Alongside the bees, other struggling Hawaiian species made the cut, including the anchialine pool shrimp, the band-rumped storm petrel and the orangeblack damselfly.

Image: USFWS used under Creative Commons

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