Question: Are any bee species endangered?

Answered by Jess Mullins

Melittologist Jess Mullins is a PhD student at the University of California San Diego 

Yes, there are some endangered bees. And there are many causes. The biggest reason some bee species are in decline is because their habitat is not what it used to be. What used to be a meadow is now a house, a parking lot, or maybe a lawn.

Bees need flowers, and humans changing the land to fit our needs has made the land less welcoming for bees. 

An example of a bee that is listed as federally endangered is the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) found in the east and Midwest of the United States. 

We know that some bumble bees are endangered because we have been surveying them. We can see that their numbers have dropped over time. And we can’t find them in places where they used to live. For many bee species, we don’t have enough historical information about their numbers to know if there are more or less of them than in the past.

A male Bombus affinis:

Bombus affinis, 2018, Tucker County, West Virginia. USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab, Public domain

How can you help bees?

  • You can plant flowers where you live
  • Tell your friends about bees
  • Ask your local businesses and schools to plant flowers and not just green grass
  • Try to buy food that is local or from a farm that commits itself to planting flowers for native bees
  • Don’t use pesticides in your garden

Remember, just because a bee species is not listed as endangered does not mean it does not need your help!

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We need bees. How can you help?

Additional resources

Dive deeper with this video about a photographer searching for the rusty patched bumble bee: 

Day’s Edge Productions; YouTube

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