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Hawaii's only native bees placed on Endangered Species list

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 9:09
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Desdemona Despair

Hylaeus assimulans is one of the seven species of yellow-faced bee to receive Endangered Species Act protection. Photo: Matthew Shepherd / The Xerces Society

HONOLULU, 30 September 2016 (AP) – Federal authorities added seven yellow-faced bee species, Hawaii’s only native bees, for protection under the Endangered Species Act Friday, a first for any bees in the United States.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the listing after years of study by the conservation group Xerces Society.

The group says their goal is to protect nature’s pollinators and invertebrates, which play a vital role in the health of the overall ecosystem.

The Xerces Society was involved in the initial petitions to protect the bee species, said Sarina Jepson, director of endangered species and aquatic programs for the Portland, Oregon-based group. Jepson said yellow-faced bees can be found elsewhere in the world, but these species are native only to Hawaii and pollinate only plant species indigenous to the islands.

The bees can be found in a wide variety of habitats in Hawaii, from coastal environments to high-elevation shrub lands, she said.

The bees are critical for maintaining the health of plants and other animals across the islands, said Fish and Wildlife spokesman Brent Lawrence.

“Pollinators play such an important role,” he said. “Listing these species as endangered will certainly help draw attention to the threats that have brought them close to extinction and it also allows us to begin the process of bringing about recovery.”

Lawrence said there are a number of threats including non-native species that are having a “devastating” effect on the ecosystem. [more]

Hawaii’s only native bees placed on Endangered Species list

By Matthew Shepherd
30 September 2016

(Xerces Society) – Hard on the heels of last week’s announcement about the proposed listing of the rusty patched bumble bee, today we got more great news for bees: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule that makes a group of yellow-faced bees in Hawaii the first bees in the country to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The USFWS declaration that seven species of yellow-faced bees (genus Hylaeus) are “endangered” comes after a multi-year effort by the Xerces Society to gain recognition and protection for these bees. The Society submitted petitions to the USFWS in March 2009. This final rule comes a year to the day since the proposed rule was published, about which I also wrote on our blog.

The USFWS decision is excellent news for these bees, but there is much work that needs to be done to ensure that Hawaii’s bees thrive. There is only one genus of bees that is native to the Hawaiian Islands, Hylaeus, commonly called yellow-faced bees because of colored markings on their faces. These bees are often found in small patches of habitat hemmed in by agricultural land or developments. Unfortunately, the USFWS has not designated any “critical habitat,” areas of land of particular importance for the endangered bees.

We want to recognize the work of researcher Karl Magnacca, who has spent years studying Hawaii’s bees and whose work provided the evidence for these listings. We also thank photographer John Kaia, whose images have done much to lift these bees out of obscurity.

An excellent offshoot of the work to protect these bees is the Hylaeus Project of Lisa Schonberg, drummer, entomologist, and previous Xerces employee, who helped write the petitions in 2009. Lisa combined her two passions and spent time observing the bees’ environment, in particular the soundscapes they live within, and published a book about it and created a series of compositions for the Secret Drum Band.

For more information about these bees, check out the following links:

Seven bees in Hawaii added to US endangered species list


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