Hawaiian yellow-faced bees are the first US bees to earn protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has placed seven species of yellow-faced bees native to Hawaii on the Endangered Species List, making them the first US bees to be granted federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The bees, all belonging to the genus Hylaeus, face a number of threats, including "feral pigs, invasive ants, loss of native habitat due to invasive plants, fire, as well as development, especially in some for the coastal areas," Sarina Jepson, director of endangered species and aquatic programs for the conservation group Xerces Society, tells the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, yellow-faced bees perform a valuable ecosystem service by pollinating some of Hawaii’s endangered native plants, many of which would become extinct without them.
Their new protection status, which goes into effect at the end of the month, will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to initiate recovery programs with access to funding, and to exert authority over other agencies’ interactions with the species.
Along with the seven yellow-faced bee species, the new listing also granted protection for the band-rumped storm-petrel, the orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly, the anchialine pool shrimp, and 39 plant species native to Hawaii.
Rusty-patched bumble bees, found across North America, are also being considered for endangered species designation under the Endangered Species Act.
The decision to list the yellow-faced bees as endangered “is excellent news for these bees, but there is much work that needs to be done to ensure that Hawaii’s bees thrive,” according to a statement on the Xerces Society website.
The Society notes that, despite the bees often being “found in small patches of habitat hemmed in by agricultural land or developments… the [US Fish and Wildlife Service] has not designated any “critical habitat,” areas of land of particular importance for the endangered bees.”
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