We’ve been hearing about dangerous declines in bee populations for years – and the US has finally added bees to the endangered species list for the first time. The listing is limited to seven species of yellow-faced bee – the only native bees in the Hawaiian Islands. Because of the isolation these species experience living at sea, they’ve been especially vulnerable to environmental threats, such as human development, the loss of native plant species, wildfires, and feral pigs.

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The bees exist in a variety of habitats in Hawaii – their territory ranges from coastal environments to high-elevation shrub lands. The role they play in the local ecosystem is difficult to overstate: while other bees could pollinate Hawaii’s native plants, there are many that could potentially become extinct if these particular bee species disappear.

This new designation is the result of nearly 10 years of research by the Xerces Society conservation group, state officials, and independent researchers. There has been no critical habitat attached to the listing, unfortunately, which limits the amount of protection the bees can receive. However, it does allow local authorities to implement recovery programs and access much-needed funding to protect the bees. And it does make it illegal to harm or kill the bees without a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Along with the bees, three other Hawaiian animal species have been listed as endangered: the band-rumped storm-petrel, the orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly, and the anchialine pool shrimp. Also added were 39 species of native Hawaiian plants. Elsewhere in the US, the rusty-patched bumble bee is currently being considered for endangered species protections.

Via The Daily Mail

Images via Wikimedia Commons