Bees are facing extinction

Bees are facing extinction

Multiple types have been placed on the endangered list in recent weeks, and it's a worrying trend for our planet.

Scientists have placed seven types of bees in Hawaii on the endangered list, meaning they’re in danger of extinction — and only about a week after report emerged that the rusty patched bumblebee of the Midwest and Northeast United States would also be placed on that list. It’s a worrying trend that threatens one of the most important insects on the planet, if not the most important.

The bees in this case are what are known as yellow-faced or masked bees, due to their yellow and white facial markings. Habitat loss, wildfires and invasive plant and insect species are threatening the survival of this once thriving species on Hawaii.

And this isn’t just an ecological issue, it’s an economic one. We rely on bees to pollinate fruits and vegetables on farms, so losing species of bees could cost us billions of dollars.

“With increasing worldwide awareness of the decline of pollinators, there is now great interest in promoting the diversity and abundance of wild bees as alternatives to imported honeybees,” reads a statement from the University of Hawaii on how these bees thrived on the islands. “Only one type of bee managed to successfully reach the islands on its own – a yellow-faced bee, Hylaeus. From that one original colonist they evolved into 63 known endemic species, about 10% of the world’s yellow-faced bees and more than are found in this genus in all of North America. With no other bees to compete with, they spread to all habitats in the islands, from the wettest to the driest forests, and from the shore within reach of the sea, to the alpine desert near 10,000 feet on Mauna Kea and Haleakalā where they visit silversword flowers.”

“Habitat destruction by fire is a threat,” reads the Federal Register notice on why the species was included on the endangered list. “Randomly occurring events such as hurricanes and drought modify habitat and remove food and nesting sources for H. facilis. Predation by nonnative ants and wasps is a threat. Existing regulatory mechanisms and agency policies do not address the primary threats to the yellow-faced bees and their habitat from nonnative ungulates.

“Competition with nonnative bees for food and nesting sites is a threat,” it continues. “The small number of remaining populations limits this species’ ability to adapt to environmental changes. The effects of climate change are likely to further exacerbate these threats. Because of these threats, we find that H. facilis is endangered throughout all of its range, and, therefore, find that it is unnecessary to analyze whether it is endangered or threatened in a significant portion of its range.”

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