California Department of Fish and Wildlife to Consider Listing Four Species of Bumblebees as Endangered

In response to a petition by the Xerces Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Food Safety, the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) list four (4) species of bumblebees as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has prepared an evaluation report (Petition Evaluation) for the Petition.  The Commission referred the petition to CDFW.  The four species include Crotch bumble bee, Franklin bumble bee, Western bumble bee, and Suckley cuckoo bumble bee.  After reviewing the Petition and other relevant information, the Department found that “the Petition provides sufficient scientific information to indicate the petitioned action may be warranted. Therefore, the Department recommends the Commission accept the Petition for further consideration under CESA.”

The report cites several factors or threats affecting the ability of all the petitioned species to survive and reproduce and they fall into four main categories: 1) present or threatened modification or destruction of their habitat; 2) competition; 3) disease; and 4) other natural and human-related factors, including pesticide use, genetic factors, and climate change.  Within these categories, agriculture is highlighted many times as posing a threat.  Under habitat destruction, agricultural conversion of lands is cited as a contributor to loss of habitat.  Within the category of competition, the report highlights threats from other species of bees, “particularly of other bee species imported and managed to pollinate crops or produce honey” as a direct threat by reducing pollen and nectar resources.  Under “other factors” the report specifically highlights the use of herbicides and pesticides as having “several negative impacts on native bumble bees, including degrading habitat and removing floral resources, causing direct mortality and sublethal effects, reducing population success and survival rates, and increasing disease risk.

What does all this mean?  The Department now has 12 months to produce a peer-reviewed report based upon the best scientific information available that advises the Commission whether the petitioned action is warranted.  Finally, the Commission, based on that report and other information in the administrative record, then determines whether or not the petitioned action to list the species as threatened or endangered is warranted.  If listed, this will put even more pressure on the use of pesticides and herbicides in agricultural settings.  This will have to be closely monitored over the next several months.