The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking the first step toward labeling an Oregon bumble bee an endangered species.
The Franklin's bumble bee was often seen in southwest Oregon and northern California in the early 1990s. But researchers say the population has rapidly declined since 1998. They haven’t been able to find any of the bees since 2006. Federal officials will look for more information about how many of the native bumble bees are left. Then they will decide whether the species is a candidate for protection.
The Portland-based Xerces Society petitioned the federal government to protect the bumble bee. Society Executive Director Scott Black says the bees could be suffering from a combination of habitat loss, pesticides, climate change, and disease from commercial bumble bees.
"We believe this should be a wake up call because it's not just this species. We've got information on a variety of other species of bumble bees across the United States that are declining, and we need to start taking action now so we don't see major problems in the future," Black said.
Scientists have reported declining bee populations across the country. But so far, no bees have been listed for federal Endangered Species Act protection.
For more on this story on OPB's environmental news blog Ecotrope.