REGION—The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced earlier this month recent studies show while the yellow-banded bumble bee (Bombus terricola), “...may experience some ongoing declines, it is likely to persist across much of its range. Thus, the species does not warrant listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.”
Yellow-banded bumble bees aid the pollination of blueberry, blackberry, cranberry flowers and other plants.
Even though the industrious pollinator is not listed under the Endangered Species Act, FWS still recommends homeowners and agriculturalists alike maintain conservation practices to prevent the bees becoming threatened or endangered.
FWS noted in a press release dated August 14, that the yellow-banded bumble bee once ranged in 25 states and 12 Canadian provinces, primarily between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains.
The little pollinators still retain much of their territory in Canada, but survey data in the United States indicate they are now only found in 14 states: Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Yellow-banded bumble bee populations can be harmed by the loss, fragmentation or degradation of their natural habitats.
They're also threatened by pesticide and herbicide use, pathogens and parasites which target managed bees, inbreeding, and temperature or precipitation changes which may reduce their food sources.
According to FWS, “One out of every three bites we consume comes from food that has been grown with the helping wings of a pollinator like the yellow-banded bumble bee.”
Native insects are estimated to provide $3 billion in pollination services each year to the United States.
Additionally, three out of four agricultural crops depend on pollinators such as bees and other insects, birds, and mammals.
How to help
To help maintain bee populations and other pollinators, FWS recommends:
• Limiting pesticide use or avoiding it altogether when possible.
• Growing a small garden of native, flowering trees or shrubs in one's yard.
• Eliminating non-native and invasive plants from one's property.
• Allowing some areas of overgrowth where bees can nest and hibernate.
• Following best management practices for beekeeping, including the responsible management of pests and disease to keep bees healthy.
About the bees
Displaying the typical yellow-and-black striped fuzzy body, yellow-banded bumble bees are among the first to wake up after a winter hibernation and set about their work.
They, “...rely on early spring flowers for fuel, protection and nutrients,” and “Their survival and next year’s colony hinge on nectar and pollen from late fall flowers and suitable places to hibernate,” states information from FWS resources.
Colonies typically include a queen, female worker bees, male bees and new queens.
FWS notes they do not store honey. Instead, yellow-banded bumble bees need to collect nectar from April through October.
They prefer to live in undisturbed woodlands, wetlands, prairies and meadows.
Only the new queen hibernates over the winter. The rest of the colony dies in the fall, and must be reborn the following spring.
More information about yellow-banded bumble bees and other pollinators is available online at www.fws.gov/pollinators/Index.html.
—Information from a release was used in this story.