US bee species placed on endangered list for first time

While some might consider bees a nuisance with a nasty sting, in reality they are vital to humans' survival around the globe, as their pollination process results in the growth of plants that we rely on for food. This is why it's so alarming that seven types of bees in the US were put under the protection of the Endangered Species Act for the first time. On Friday the US Fish and Wildlife Service said the species, found in Hawaii, are now threatened by extinction.

The bees now under protection are from the Hylaeus, or yellow-faced, species, and were previously found in abundance in Hawaii. The US Fish and Wildlife Service says that the causes of their decline include loss of habitat, wildfires, and invasion from non-native plants and insects.

Federal wildlife managers add that the dwindling populations of the bees in Hawaii is similar to what's happened with other types of wild bees in the US. Human have certainly played a large part in the loss of habitat factor, not to mention the practice of crop dusting, but the bees in Hawaii are also facing non-human threats.

Specifically, an invasive bee type from India has been found to be making a hostile takeover of the flowers and plants where the Hawaii types usually nest. In addition, ants, which are non-native to Hawaii entirely, are known to attack bee nests in order to eat their larvae.

The official protection listing for the bees means that authorities can get access to funding in order to put recovery programs in place. Part of limiting threats from outside sources means that individuals are prohibited from killing or removing the species from their habitat.

Since the yellow-faced bees are native to Hawaii, and known to inhabit all type of environments on the islands, they are responsible for the pollination of Hawaii's indigenous plant species — some of which are also endangered. If the bee species were to go extinct, it would lead to the death of a number of plants types as well, not to mention have a wide-ranging impact on Hawaii's ecosystem.

SOURCE US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Geographic