After years of study, the US Fish and Wildlife Service have placed seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees on the endangered species list, the first time any bee have received such classification.
The service worked in conjunction with the Xerces Society, which advocates for invertebrate species, as well as local Hawaiian officials, to study the status of the bees. On its website, the Xerces Society noted seven species of the insect have been listed as endangered: Hylaeus anthracinus, Hylaeus longiceps, Hylaeus assimulans, Hylaeus facilis, Hylaeus hilaris, Hylaeus kuakea, and Hylaeus mana. In 1996, the service listed 33 species as "Species of Concern".
The bees are native to Hawaii, and have been declining for a number of years due to intrusion from non-native plants and animals, as well as habitat destruction due to urban development. Scientists note that these bees are an integral to the Hawaiian ecosystem as pollinators, and that they are "critical for maintaining the health of plants and other animals across the islands," according to conservation and restoration team manager Gregory Koob, of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Honolulu.
Now that the bees have been placed on the endangered species list, they will receive additional protections from the federal government designed to help boost the species population and protect them from harassment from humans. These protections appear to be critically important as bee populations across the United States have declined in recent years. Other species appear to be poised for protection: the Service is considering endangered status for the rusty-patched bumble bee, which can be found across the United States.