You may not be able to name five animals that are on the endangered species list, but you may want to pay attention to one insect that was just added. Bees were recently added to the endangered species list and that’s a big deal. While other animals on the list, like the panda, may be cuter, bees play a bigger role in the operation of our ecosystem.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who maintains the endangered species list, added seven species of yellow-faced bees to the list this year. Yellow-faced bees, which are native to Hawaii, are identified by the yellow to white markings on their face. They closely resemble wasps; the one distinguishing feature being branched hairs on either side of their thorax. This is an historic addition to the list, as it is the first time that a bee of any species has been on it and, thus, protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Although you’d think that lots of bees would like to call Hawaii home, the yellow-faced bee is the only species of bee from the Aloha State. This fact proves that the bees flew there on their own. The first bee to arrive in the state started a population growth that blossomed into 63 species. 10% of the world’s population of yellow-faced bees resides in Hawaii.
You’d think that bees would be safe in an environmentally conscious state like Hawaii, but here we are. A couple of species of yellow-faced bee can now only be found in one area in Hawaii. Urbanization plays a part in their dwindling numbers, but so do animals non-native to the state. Both of these destructive factors ruin the bees’ home. Non-native plants, wildfires, hurricanes, tsunamis, and droughts have also played a role in getting the bees onto the endangered species list.
If animals knew what being on the endangered species list meant for their brethren, they’d probably focus on the negatives. While it isn’t a list any animal wants to be on, being on that list allows humans to put more protections into place. A spokesman from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Gregory Koob, explained that every federal agency has to get into contact with his service before interacting with the yellow-faced bee or any endangered species. Having a spot on the endangered species list also means that recovery programs can be put into place and that authorities can legally limit their harm from others.
Being on the list is only a start, though, more work needs to be done to make sure that lots of yellow-faced bees call Hawaii home again. Since these bees are usually found in small areas surrounded by farms and other developments, the Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t been able to pinpoint specific areas where the bees flourish. While it is upsetting to hear about the yellow-faced bee, the University of Hawaii reports that many new species are discovered regularly. Regardless, it’s vital to our well-being that we don’t take these seven species of bees on the endangered species list lightly.