For the first time ever, bees have been added to the Endangered Species List. Not all bees – just 7 species – but it is a big wake up call. Interestingly enough – all 7 species can only be found on the Hawaiian Islands. This listing was made following recommendations from the Xerces Society, an international non-profit, science- based, conservation organization.
This means that any species put on the list is protected by The Endangered Species Act. It was reported in science news in late September that the Rusty Patch Bumblebee might be added to the list, but when a new rule was passed down by the US Fish and Wildlife Service; The Yellow-Faced bees of Hawaii were the first to make the list. This is not a race any species wants to win.
The seven species — Hylaeus anthracinus, H. assimulans, H. facilis, H. hilaris, H. kuakea, H. longiceps, and H. mana — are native only to Hawaii and inhabit diverse habitats such as coasts, dry forests, and subalpine shrub lands. These bees pollinate a variety of native plant species, including some of Hawaii’s most endangered plant species, which could become extinct if the bees were wiped out.
“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.”
Matthew Shepherd of the Xerces Society
The biggest concern going forward is to establish some designated critical habitat for these bees. Hawaii’s limited natural environs are being eaten away by agricultural and industrial activities as well as continued residential building. All of these yellow-faced species on the Hawaiian Islands have evolved over thousands of years, as they would have had to migrate from a mainland. This makes them unique and fragile at the same time.
On a positive note, since the implementation of more research on bees was set in motion 15 years ago, 11 new species of yellow-faced bees have been discovered on the Hawaiian Islands.