The American Bumble Bee Needs Help.Will You Rise To The Challenge?
On September 29, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS) announced that it would begin a 12-month in-depth status review to determine whether the American bumble bee should be added to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants under the Endangered Species Act. This announcement came after the service reviewed a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Bombus Pollinators Association of Law Students that asked the service to take steps to protect this iconic pollinator.
While the US FWS’ announcement includes a disclaimer that states, “90-day findings represent a relatively low bar, requiring only that the petitioner provide information that the proposed action may be warranted,” the petition itself contains some troubling statistics:
- The American bumble bee has declined by 89% in relative abundance
- The American bumble bee has disappeared from at least eight states in the last 20 years
- The American bumble is a key pollinator for approximately 90% of our native plants and 75% of the world’s leading food crops
Florida is home to the American bumble bee as well as four other native bumble bee species: the common eastern bumble bee; the two-spotted bumble bee; the brown-belted bumble bee; and the southern plains bumble bee. (North America has a total of 46 native bumble bee species; IUCN lists 12 of these, including the American bumble bee and the southern plains bumble bee, as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.)
In our area, these generalist bumble bees feed on a range of native wildflowers that include thistles (Cirsium spp.), tickseeds (Coreopsis spp.), beardtongues (Penstemon spp.), spotted bee balm (Monarda punctata), ironweeds (Vernonia spp.), Spanish needles (Bidens alba), goldenrods (Solidago spp.) and more. While some might take solace in the fact that Florida’s population of American bumble bees has “only” declined by 14%, I view this as a challenge.
Will you commit to minimizing (or better yet, eliminating) your use of fungicides, neonicotinoids, and other chemicals that have been linked to the decline of our American bumble bee? Will you commit to planting more native wildflowers in pots, balconies, and gardens so they have lots of nectar and pollen for sustenance? Will you commit to help save this buzzing beauty from extinction?
Let’s start a local movement that can be an example for the rest of the state, indeed the rest of the nation. Let’s show how grassroots action can make a difference. Let’s #NurtureNative and save our bumble bees.