Bumblebee becomes the first endangered bee in continental US

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The endangered designation is made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act for species that are in danger of becoming extinct throughout all or a portion of their range. All types of the species have black heads, the rule states, "but only workers and males have a rusty reddish patch centrally located on the abdomen".

One of several species facing sharp declines, the bumble bee known to scientists as Bombus affinis has plunged almost 90 percent in abundance and distribution since the late 1990s, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Cross-pollination is responsible for at least 30 percent of the world's crops (including apples, berries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, alfalfa and almonds) and 90 percent of our wild plants. The cost of bee decline on the global economy is estimated to be as high as $5.7 billion per year.

Environment America's Christy Leavitt said that "protecting the rusty patched bumblebee and all bees is essential for our ecosystem and our food supply". "Why is this important?" Pollinators are small but mighty parts of the natural mechanism that sustains us and our world. "Without them ... our crops require laborious, costly pollination by hand".

Last October, the Fish and Wildlife Service gave endangered status to seven species of yellow-faced bees native to Hawaii, the first time any US bees received this kind of protection. Several other bees and pollinators are facing similar issues, although they haven't yet been listed as endangered.

The listing is in response to a 2013 petition from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and a following lawsuit filed by the group when the agency did not timely respond to the petition.

Many of these steps are seen helpful for other struggling bees and even monarch butterflies, all of which pollinate cultivated vegetables and fruits and other plants, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told The Associated Press.

The rusty patched bumblebee lives in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada.

"A lot of data from Bumble Bee Watch was already used in the decision to list the species", Jepsen said. Insects, unlike such species as whooping cranes and giant pandas, can reproduce at much greater numbers, so can more speedily recover under the right conditions.

Bumblebees live in underground colonies, caring for a queen.

Bees are pollinators, which means one third of the food we eat would not be available if it wasn't for bees.

Have a mix with something in bloom from early spring through fall.