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Rusty patched bumblebee added to endangered species list

There are many species on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of endangered species. And one of the newest animals added to the list isn’t very big, but it’s a big deal.

The rusty patched bumblebee was designated as an endangered species on Jan. 11 and its protection will go into effect on Feb. 10.

The bee will be joining more than 70 other insects on the endangered species list. U.S. Fish and Wildlife puts plants and animals into two categories — threatened or endangered.

This is the first bee species to be listed on the endangered species list in the U.S. That’s kind of surprising since we have all heard about how bee populations have been on the decline. This is great news though because habitats for the rusty patched bumblebee will now have to be protected and there will have to be a recovery plan put into place to help protect these bees.

What is good for the rusty patched bumblebee will probably also be good for other bee populations. While it’s only one species of bee on the list, it will hopefully bring more attention to the plight of all of the bee species.

A couple of reasons the bees population has declined is because of pesticides and habitat loss. It’s always best to not use pesticides in your garden. Pesticides can contaminate groundwater and harm not only the insects you don’t want, but other, helpful insects that you want around — like bees. Once you apply insecticides, you can’t really pick and choose which insects are exposed to it.

Habitat loss is also an issue for the rusty patched bumblebee, as well as other bumblebees. To help out bees, you can plant flowers. The rusty patched bumblebee is special because it is one of the first species to come out in the spring and one of the last species to go into hibernation, so it needs flowering plants for a long time. If you can diversify the plants in your yard to make sure you have different plants that are flowering throughout the spring, summer and fall, it will help the bumblebee’s survival.

According to Fish and Wildlife, the rusty patched bumblebee was “widely distributed across areas of 31 states/provinces” before the mid- to late-1990s. Kentucky was one of the states where the bee lived. Since then, the bee has seen a steep decline. The bee has seen an “ 88 percent decline from the number of populations documented prior to 2000,” according to Fish and Wildlife.

The rusty patched bumblebee is not currently believed to live in Kentucky, however it does live right next door in Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee. And even though it’s current range doesn’t include Kentucky, it could return if we can supply better habitats for it.

Even though it sounds negative, classifying the bee as endangered is actually a huge step for bee conservation. While the classification means we’re taking action as a nation to help the bee, it’s important to remember you can have an individual impact all on your own, too.

Think about the things you are planting in and putting on your garden. Make sure that if you have to use something to control a pest or help a plant grow, you try natural remedies to help your garden grow. Most important, avoid any pesticides or chemicals that could harm bees.

Amanda’s Animal Fact of the Week

Sea Otters have a special flap of skin or “pocket” under each forearm where they store food and their favorite rocks. They use their favorite rocks to break open clams and mollusks.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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