Elusive Pacific Northwest Bumblebee Listed as Endangered

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For Immediate Release, August 23, 2021

Contact:

Quinn Read, (206) 979-3074, [email protected]

Elusive Pacific Northwest Bumblebee Listed as Endangered

Among World’s Rarest, Franklin’s Bumblebee Last Spotted in 2006

PORTLAND, Ore.— Following legal action by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today listed Franklin’s bumblebee as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Despite finding that the bee has a high risk of extinction from persistent threats like pathogens and pesticides, the Service declined to designate critical habitat for the imperiled bee. This decision stems from a 2019 regulatory change made by the Trump administration that limits critical habitat designations only to species directly threatened by habitat destruction. The Center and others are currently challenging those regulations in federal court since critical habitat does protect species from pesticides and other threats.

“Franklin’s bumblebee is one of the rarest in the world, and it will surely tumble into extinction without Endangered Species Act protections,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center. “This is a good step for these bumblebees, but the federal failure to protect critical habitat will make recovery an uphill battle. There’s just no way to save species like this unique bumblebee without protecting the places they live.”

Franklin’s bumblebee is believed to have the most limited distribution of any North American bumblebee species. All confirmed specimens have been found in Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties in southern Oregon, and Siskiyou and Trinity counties in Northern California.

The last confirmed sighting of Franklin’s bumblebee occurred in 2006, when a single individual was found in Oregon. But the Service believes the insect may still exist within its small range, citing the rediscovery of the Fender’s blue butterfly, which was believed extinct for 52 years until it was spotted again in Oregon in 1989. The Fender’s blue butterfly has since been recovered.

Though its rarity has limited scientific study, Franklin’s bumblebee typically nests underground in abandoned rodent burrows or other spaces that offer shelter and room for food storage. One colony was even found in a residential garage in Medford, Oregon.

The Xerces Society first petitioned to list the species as endangered in 2010. In January, the Center filed a formal notice of its intent to sue the Trump administration for its failure to finalize its August 2019 proposed rule to protect the Franklin’s bumblebee as endangered.

RSBombus-franklini-JPStrange-USDA-ARS_FPWC.jpg

Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus Franklini). Photo by James P. Strange, USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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