Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Proposed for Endangered Species Listing

CHICAGO – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed to list the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species today. The once widely-distributed insect species has been eliminated from over 80 percent of its historic range.

“This decision comes not a moment too soon,” said Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “Bee populations—including thousands of species of wild bees—are in crisis across the country, and the rusty patched bumble bee is one of the most troubling examples.  Today’s decision is a critical step forward. If finalized, the endangered species protections will improve the health of our ecosystem as well as the security of our national food supply.”

The endangered species decision for the rusty patched bumble bee comes after years of calls from conservation and science voices to protect this native bee species. Bumble bees are essential to one-third of the nation’s crops, including 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.

“We are very pleased that the Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to grant Endangered Species Act protection to the rusty patched bumble bee. Once listed, it will be the first native bee in the continental US to receive such protection” said Sarina Jepsen, lead author of the petition and director of endangered species at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Addressing the many threats that the rusty patched bumble bee faces – from neonicotinoid pesticides to disease – will help not only this species, but countless other native pollinators that are so critical to the functioning of natural ecosystems and agriculture.” 

Unlike honey bees, the rusty patched bumble bee is native to North America, with a range that once spanned over the upper Midwest and Northeast. The species is threatened today by habitat loss and degradation, pesticide use, parasites, and climate change. The announcement from the agency is one that is welcome but long overdue. 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. If the proposed rule is finalized, the FWS will be required to evaluate many threats to the species, including pesticide use and habitat.  

Additional Materials

Xerxes Society for Invertebrate Conservation petition to list:

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

Blog by NRDC attorney, Giulia Good Stefani:


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, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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