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Bumblebee Found In Wisconsin Now Listed As Endangered

Federal Agency Lists First Bumblebee Under Endangered Species Act

Rusty patched bumblebee
Dan Mullen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A bumblebee species reported in 10 Wisconsin counties has become the first bumblebee to be listed as endangered under a federal law.

The rusty patched bumblebee was commonly seen in 28 states as recently as the 1990s, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Now, according to the wildlife agency, the insect is only being reported in small and scattered populations in 13 states, including Wisconsin.

FWS spokeswoman Georgia Parham said the decline may be due to a combination of the loss of prairies, bee parasites, pesticides and perhaps climate change “affecting the timing of its food sources.”

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“Also, some types of storm events that are fairly severe, if they impact species with very low populations, it can have some pretty detrimental effects,” she said.

The rusty patched bumblebee is among a group of plant pollinators, including the monarch butterfly, suffering severe declines, Parham said.

“And that’s a source of concern, because they’re so important to so many things that we depend on,” Parham continued. “They pollinate many types of crops, wildflowers, plants that sustain other species. So, they’re really keystone species in ecosystems.”

The endangered designation is made under the Endangered Species Act.

Parham said the listing of the rusty patched bumblebee shouldn’t affect many landowners. She encourages people to plant bee-friendly native plants.

The 10 Wisconsin counties include Buffalo, Dane, Grant, Green, Iowa, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Sauk, Walworth and Waukesha counties.