The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Scott Hoffman Black, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, (503) 449-3792
Caroline Kennedy, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 682-9400

Wild Bumble Bees Teeter on Brink of Extinction

Conservation groups and scientists ask the USDA to protect wild bumble bees from disease


he Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Defenders of
Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council and Dr. Robbin Thorp today
submit a citizen petition to the U. S. Department of Agriculture's
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requesting the
Secretary to take action to regulate the movement and health of
commercial bumble bees.

Read the petition
Recent work by Dr. Robbin Thorp and The Xerces Society has established
that at least four species of formerly common North American bumble
bees have experienced steep declines; two of those species teeter on
the brink of extinction. A major threat to the survival of these wild
bees is the spread of diseases from commercially produced bees that are
transported throughout the country.

"The federal government does not regulate the movement of bumble
bees throughout the United States, nor does it certify that bumble bees
that are moved be free of diseases," said Sarina Jepsen, endangered
species program director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate
Conservation. "However, this petition clearly shows that the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
has the authority to regulate the interstate movement of bumble bees
under the Plant Protection Act and two other laws."

Bee pollination is essential to the reproduction of many crops and
native flowering plants, and pathogens of bumble bees can act as
indirect plant pests that pose a significant threat to agriculture and
native ecosystems. "It is critical that we use our managed pollinators
wisely for the benefit of agriculture and that we ensure the protection
of our non-managed pollinator resources," said Dr. Robbin Thorp, a
bumble bee researcher and professor emeritus of U.C. Davis.

In order to prevent the spread of disease to wild populations of
agriculturally significant bee pollinators, petitioners ask APHIS to
use its regulatory authority, outlined in this petition, to regulate
commercial bumble bees. Specifically, APHIS should create rules
prohibiting the movement of bumble bees outside of their native ranges
and regulate interstate movement of bumble bee pollinators within their
native ranges by requiring permits that show that bumble bees are
certified as disease-free prior to movement.

"In the U.S., pollinators, including bumble bees, provide essential
services estimated at $3 billion annually," said Robert Irvin, senior
vice president of conservation policy at Defenders of Wildlife. "With
some precautionary efforts in place, we can protect our native bee
populations so they can continue to pollinate native plants and
important food crops."

"The rusty patched bumble bee, the western bumble bee, the yellow
banded bumble bee and Franklin's bumble bee are all threatened by
disease spread from commercially reared bumble bees. Franklin's bumble
bee and the rusty patched bumble bee may be headed for extinction,"
said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. "We
hope to work with USDA-APHIS to enact common sense regulations that
ensure these and other bumble bee species are adequately protected."

To read more about declining bumble bees, please visit the Xerces Society's Web site.

Learn more about what Defenders is doing to help pollinators.

Defenders of Wildlife is the premier U.S.-based national conservation organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of imperiled species and their habitats in North America.

(202) 682-9400