The listing of the rusty patched bumblebee on the endangered species list in the United States has been delayed by a directive issued by the Trump administration that places a 60-day hold on all new regulations published in the Federal Register. This now-scarce species of bumblebee was due to be included in the endangered species list on February 10, but the delay pushes that inclusion back to March 21.
The rusty patched bumblebee was once so prolific across the U.S. that is was considered a pest, but since the 1990s its numbers have declined by 87 percent. No single cause can be pinpointed for the decline: pesticides, climate change, habitat destruction, and fungal parasites are all suspected causes, although more than one culprit could be to blame. Regardless, the new delay means that the insects will have to wait even longer to have new protective regulations applied to them.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that without federal regulations protecting rusty patched bumblebees, the species is likely to go extinct within 40 years. However, they don’t expect the current delay to have much of an impact on their conservation efforts.
"The change in the effective date from February 10 to March 21, 2017, is not expected to have an impact on the conservation of the species," explains Gary Frazer, FWS’s assistant director of ecological services. "FWS is developing a recovery plan to guide efforts to bring this species back to a healthy and secure condition."
The delay has drawn criticism from conservationists, saying that the delay further imperils these bees. However, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is optimistic that the regulations being drafted by the FWS will be effective, once enacted.
"This species is critically imperiled and needs protection," explains Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist with Xerces. "I’m hopeful that the administration will recognize the importance that pollinators play for food security in this country."