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Officials list Franklin’s bumble bee as endangered species

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The following is a news release from The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. | Photo courtesy Oregon Conservation Strategy

PORTLAND, Oregon – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a final rule to list the Franklin’s bumble bee as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“Protecting native bees like Franklins’ bumble bee will help ensure our native plants, gardens and crops will continue to have an adequate supply of pollinators,” said Robyn Thorson, the Service’s Columbia Pacific Northwest Regional Director. “We have hope that this bee will be seen again as we continue to work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and researchers to locate them and manage their habitat.”

Franklin’s bumble bee has the smallest geographic range of any bumble bee in North America, and possibly the world. Found only in the hills of southwest Oregon and northern California, this elusive bee has always been hard to spot. Franklin’s bumble bee has not been observed in its native habitat since 2006, indicating the species is likely in severe decline. Private landowners should not be impacted by the listing of Franklin’s bumble bee because its range is extremely limited and most recent observations have occurred on federal land at higher elevations.

Franklin’s bumble bees are likely impacted by a combination of factors including disease, small population size, and pesticides. The range-wide decline of this species since the late 1990s and persistent threats mean this bee is at high risk of becoming extinct.

“The level of public and interagency engagement in the bumble bee survey efforts has been incredible,” said Glenn Casamassa, Forest Service Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. “The primary habitat for this bee in Oregon is on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. While this species has not been detected there since 2006, our employees continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on sampling historic and suitable habitats in order to conserve and recover this species. There’s a collective sense of urgency to protect native pollinators, and this effort highlights not only the strength of our interagency partnerships but also the strength of research and citizen science efforts in Southwest Oregon.”

Historically, Franklin’s bumble bees have been found at elevations between 540 feet to more than 7,800 feet, located in a roughly 13,000-square-mile area in southwest Oregon and northern California. Their ability to survive in cold climates makes them the primary pollinators of alpine flowering plants. The bee needs abundant flowers throughout their May-September flight season and cavities—or holes—for breeding and sheltering. Because they are habitat generalists and there appears to be plenty of intact habitat available to them, the Service determined that designating critical habitat for the Franklin’s bumble bee is not prudent at this time.

Xerces Society and an individual scientist petitioned the Service in 2010 to list the Franklin’s bumble bee as endangered under the ESA, based on a small number of extant populations, natural instability of small populations and other factors.

For information on the Franklin’s bumble bee, please visit http://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/.

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