In 2013 the Xerces Society petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) as an endangered species. Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is proposing to list the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. This is a huge victory for bumble bee conservation.
The rusty patched bumble bee was once widespread, has precipitously declined from 9/10ths of its range, and has at least two threats for which existing regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to protect them, the widespread use of toxic insecticides whose toxicity to native bees were not adequately considered in the pesticide approval process and the distribution of commercial bumble bees within the range of the rusty patched bumble bee that are not required to be free of pathogens. Listing the rusty patched bumble bee under the ESA will require that its needs be considered when federal actions—like the registration of new pesticides—are taken. In addition, protecting this bee from threats of disease, pesticide, and habitat loss, may also help many of the other 3,600 species of native bees that exist on the American landscape.