Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Listed as Endangered Species

First Native Bee in Continental U.S. to be Protected by Law

The rusty patched bumble bee was added to the federal Endangered Species List today, the first native bee to be protected under the law in the continental U.S.  Threatened by disease, habitat loss, and pesticides, the rusty patched bumble bee is now listed as "endangered," which will require action to prevent the bee from going extinct.​​

“Today’s Endangered Species listing is the best—and probably last—hope for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee. Bumble bees are dying off, vanishing from our farms, gardens, and parks, where they were once found in great numbers,” said Rebecca Riley, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“We are very pleased to see one of North America’s most imperiled species receive the protection it needs,” said Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the petitioning organization. “Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces – from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to diseases.”

The plump bee with a rusty patch marking on its back-section was once common in 28 states across the East and upper Midwest as well as large parts of Canada, but in the last two decades the bee has disappeared from over 90 percent of its historic range.

The endangered species decision for the rusty patched bumble bee comes after years of calls from conservationists and scientists to protect the native bee species. Bumble bees are prodigious pollinators, essential to blueberries, tomatoes, and clover, as well as native flowering plants. The economic value of bumble bee and other native pollinators is estimated at $9 billion per year in the United States, according to the White House.

One of America’s bedrock environmental laws, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), provides comprehensive protection to both the species and its habitat.  The Act has been an essential tool for protecting bald eagles, grizzly bears, and scores of other iconic species. ESA listing for the rusty patched bumble bee will ensure that the federal government takes action to prevent the bee from going extinct. 

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation filed a petition to list the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in 2013. Xerces and NRDC filed a lawsuit challenging the FWS’s failure to act on the petition in 2014. Pursuant to a settlement in that suit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to make a listing decision by September 2016. That decision, issued on September 22nd, 2016, proposed the listing finalized today.    

Additional Materials

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Status for Rusty Patched Bumble Bee:

Bigger Isn’t Better: Bayer Takeover of Monsanto Is Bad for Farmers, Bees


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC


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