In the February 2017 issue of Outdoor Photographer, on newsstands at the time of this writing, we featured an article by photographer and current NANPA president Clay Bolt on the creative process behind his documentary film, “Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee.” In the article, Bolt shares how he became a leading advocate for this increasingly rare native pollinator, and his partnership with The Xerces Society to get Endangered Species Act protection for it.
This week, the effort paid off when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service formally listed the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered. “Just 20 years ago, the rusty patched bumble bee was a common sight across 28 states from Connecticut to South Dakota,” notes the official press release from the USFWS. “But the species, now balancing precariously on the brink of extinction, has become the first bumble bee that the Fish and Wildlife Service has declared endangered.”
“Historically, the rusty patched bumble bee was abundant and widespread across the eastern United States and Canada. Since the late 1990s, rusty patched bumble bee abundance, measured in numbers of populations, has declined by about 87 percent,” the USFWS website notes. “The decline may actually be higher because many of the populations that we considered current for our assessment have not been reconfirmed since the early 2000s and may no longer persist.”
Why is protection for the rusty patched and other native pollinators important? According to the USFWS, “In the United States and globally, native bees are responsible for most pollination of plants that require insect pollination to produce fruits, seeds, and nuts. Native bees not only pollinate economically important crops, but provide the foundation of functioning ecosystems; pollination is required for plant reproduction and plants are the base of the food chain. The plight of the rusty patched bumble bee is not an isolated occurrence, but a symptom of widespread decline of other bumble bees and many other insect pollinators … Measures to identify and address threats and prevent the extinction of the rusty patched bumble bee will help conserve other native pollinators, including other bumble bee species.”
Asked to comment on the good news, Bolt offered his appreciation for the public support of the project. "I am just so encouraged and grateful for the public's outcry in support of this species, which was integral in the USFWS' decision to ultimately list the rusty-patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the ESA," Bolt said. "This was an effort that would have never been possible without so many people working together to see it through. I am grateful that my images have played a part in this historic moment in pollinator protection and a decision that may give this beautiful creature a fighting chance. These are the moments that make all of the hours of hard work and worry worthwhile."
Congratulations to Clay, The Xerces Society, Neil Losin and the team at Day’s Edge Productions, and to everyone who helped make the effort a success.
Additional information is available at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website.
Press release: https://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/861.html