A bumblebee that's native to the Midwest was just added to the endangered species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday the rusty patched bumblebee is the very first bee to make the list in the continental U.S.
Wildlife officials say the insect was very common 20 years ago, particularly in the Midwest and further east. It had been found in 28 different states. But since the late 1990s, the rusty patched bumblebee population has rapidly plummeted by 87 percent. Now they're only found in 13 states – including Minnesota – and one Canadian province.
The Fish and Wildlife Service believes several factors can be attributed to this decline: Loss of habitat, disease and parasites, pesticides, climate change, and just having a small population.
These same factors have also harmed other pollinators that used to be common in Minnesota, like the monarch butterfly and honey bee. Both those insects have also been hit with significant population declines.
Officials hope adding the bee to the list of endangered species will help raise awareness of this growing problem with pollinators dying.
How you can help
There are little things you can do to help the bumblebees – and other pollinators, for that matter.
Planting flowers that are native to the area helps. Wildlife professionals recommend using a variety of flowering plants so that something is blooming spring through fall. You can read more about how to attract pollinators to your garden here.
Also avoid using pesticides whenever possible. If you do use them, follow label instructions carefully to make sure you're not causing any unnecessary damage.
You can also build habitats by not cutting grass and plants before winter. That way the bees have a place to go to hibernate.
According to the Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota is home to about 400 native bee species.