Conservationists have managed to get as many as seven species of Hawaiian bees added to the US federal list of endangered and threatened species.
The USFWS declaration that seven species of yellow-faced bees (genus Hylaeus) are “endangered” comes after a multi-year effort by the Xerces Society to gain recognition and protection for these bees. The Society submitted petitions to the USFWS in March 2009. This final rule comes a year to the day since the proposed rule was published. The yellow-faced bees were once found in abundance in Hawaii.
The bees, so named for yellow-to-white facial markings, once crowded Hawaii and Maui but recent surveys found their populations have plunged in the same fashion as other types of wild bees – and some commercial ones – elsewhere in the United States, federal wildlife managers said, according to the Guardian.
Some of the reasons behind the massive decline in population of these bees include large scale habitat loss, wildfires and the invasion of non-native plants and insects. Bees represent billions of dollar of revenue each year to the US agricultural economy. So, their dying population can spell bad news for the nation’s food industry.
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 says Xerces Society. There is only one genus of bees that is native to the Hawaiian Islands, Hylaeus, commonly called yellow-faced bees because of colored markings on their faces. These bees are often found in small patches of habitat hemmed in by agricultural land or developments. Unfortunately, the USFWS has not designated any “critical habitat,” areas of land of particular importance for the endangered bees.