Marking a troubling development in the crisis of pollinator decline, the first species of bees were added to the Endangered Species List.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced the determined status on Friday for seven types of yellow-faced bees found in the Hawaiian islands.
It comes after a multi-year effort by the invertebrate conservation organization The Xerces Society to gain federal recognition and protection for the threatened bees.
Xerces communication director Matthew Shepard hailed the development as "excellent news for these bees," but added that "there is much work that needs to be done to ensure that Hawaii's bees thrive."
"Unfortunately," he lamented, "the USFWS has not designated any 'critical habitat,' areas of land of particular importance for the endangered bees."
The endangered genus, Hylaeus, commonly called yellow-faced, are the only genus native to Hawaii. Their failure comes amid a national crisis of declining bee populations, including colony collapse disorder, which is attributed to an array of causes, including habitat loss, infection, and the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides.
As Shepard wrote earlier, "Hawai'i's yellow-faced bees face many threats, from the loss of habitat due to land conversion, development, and recreation...to the negative impacts of nonnative species, such as wild pigs, bigheaded ants, and invasive plants. Climate change also poses a threat to small populations of these bees."
He further noted that the bees are "critical pollinators of many endangered native Hawaiian plants and the decline of these bees could lead to the extinction of the plants that rely upon them."
The announcement came a week after the USFWS proposed for protection the first bee in the continental U.S., the rusted patched bumble bee, typically found in the upper midwest and northeast.