The listing of the rusty patched bumble bee (RPBB) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) became effective on March 21, 2017. With this ruling, the RPBB became the first bumblebee – and the first bee overall in the continental United States — to be listed under the ESA.
The RPBB was very common 20 years ago, however, by the early 2000s, the RPBB was decidedly less visible and over the past two decades, the RPBB has declined in nearly 90 percent of its range. The list of suspected causes for the disappearance includes farm pesticides, household herbicides, human development over bee habitat, disease and climate change.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is still developing a recovery plan to guide efforts to bring this species back to what they believe is a healthy condition, but an endangered designation triggers protections such as regulations against knowingly destroying the bumblebee’s habitat and habitat creation. It also raises awareness about the plight of the bumblebee and requires a detailed, long-term recovery plan to restore its population.