A petition has been filed requesting the American bumblebee be listed as an endangered species as the insect's population declines in the United States.
Eight states — Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Oregon — currently report having zero or near zero American bumblebees left, according to the petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and Bombus Pollinators Association of Law Students.
Submitted on Feb. 1 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the petition requests the species be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
"The American bumblebee was once the most common bumblebee species in North America, but without immediate action to protect it under the ESA, it will continue its alarming decline towards extinction," the petition states.
Jess Tyler, a scientist with the center, called the petition, which he co-authored, "an important first step in preventing the extinction" of the bee in a statement on Sept. 28.
"To survive unchecked threats of disease, habitat loss, and pesticide poisoning, American bumblebees need the full protection of the Endangered Species Act right now," he said.
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The American bumblebee population has dropped 89% across the U.S. over the last two decades, according to the petition. Climate change, pesticides, habitat loss, and competition with other species are among the top causes for the dip in numbers.
The petition lists seven other states — Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware — with critically low numbers of American bumblebees. Meanwhile, states like Montana, Nevada, Kentucky, and Utah have seen a slight increase in their respective populations.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed that the listing of the American bumblebee under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted, following a 90-day review of the petition. More data about the species' current status will be assessed at the 12-month mark.