Bumblebee Species Possible Listings Further Threatens California Ag

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Regulation

The Fish and Game Commission (Commission) is considering four bumblebee species to be listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  The Xerces Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Food Safety filed the original petition for the species to be considered.  The petition was referred to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) which prepared an evaluation report to move forward with the process for consideration.  The four species include Franklin’s bumblebee, the Western bumblebee, Suckley’s cuckoo bumblebee, and Crotch’s bumblebee.

bumblebee species

Courtesy: Xerces Society / Rich Hatfield

“The biggest concern from our standpoint is it identifies three areas connected to agriculture as being potential culprits in the decline in those species,” said President and CEO of Western Agricultural Processors Association Roger Isom. “Agriculture is one of the primary targets…it’s just one more attack not only on pesticide and herbicide use but on agricultural in general. The fact that the Department of Fish and Wildlife has indicated it merits further review scares me, so I think it’s something we need to be involved in.”

The CDFW determined there was enough supporting scientific information in the petition to move forward with further consideration to classify the four bumblebee species under CESA.  The evaluation reports various factors that are impacting the survival of the petitioned species, several of which include agriculture.  One of the factors eluded to in the report is that the amount of available habitat for the bumblebees is threatened.  “They claim agricultural land is taking away habitat.  As far as I understand, agricultural land in California has actually been reduced but nonetheless they claim that ag land is increasing and it’s taking away the natural habitat for these [bumblebees],” said Isom.

The report also highlights the use of herbicides and pesticides as having a negative impact on the bumblebees.  Competition from other bees was also highlighted in the report as reducing pollen and nectar resources.  “They blame the increased use of commercial honeybees.  So as the tree nut acreage, in particular, almonds which need bees to pollinate, has increased we’ve brought in more bees,” said Isom.

The CDFW will have 12 months to produce a peer-reviewed report based on the best scientific information that is available.  The Commission will take the report under advisement in determining whether the listed species will be listed as threatened or endangered.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West