The Western View: Fishy Business About Bumblebees

Dan Industry

Courtesy: Xerces Society / Rich Hatfield

So when is a bumblebee a fish?

When it gets a California lawyer.

Scientists say that 4 varieties of bumblebees in serious danger. They are losing habitat due to climate change and human development. As important pollinators, bumblebees are considered a keystone species – without them, other species could die.

The California Endangered Species Act – the ESA – protects many species, however, insects are not covered by the Act. For whatever reason they had, those legislators back in 1970 did not include bugs in the  ESA, which was written  three years ahead of the national ESA.

So bees are not eligible for listing.


The lawyers scrutinized the act, and found that animals without backbones were included in the fish definitions.  So they tried to get other invertebrates included under that category.  In the 1980s environmentalists tried to add two butterfly species that way, but the state Office of Administrative Law would not approve it.  They said insects were not protected.

So now bee supporters are trying the same thing again. They say bees don’t have backbones and are therefore eligible for listing under the fish definition.

It would be a shame if they succeeded.

Image by Josef Pichler from Pixabay

Not because bumblebees don’t need help – science says they do, and we need to do our best to insure the survival of the species. The shame comes from twisting the law from what it says into what a group of activists want it to say. The rule of law becomes tyranny when a vocal few can make the law mean whatever they want it to mean.

If bees need protection but are excluded from the act, then do what is needed to change the Act. That’s the rule that was passed by our representatives. It should not be rewritten by a judge to suit the people with the smartest lawyers.

The Western View: Fishy Business About Bumblebees

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West and Citrus Industry Magazine.  Visit us on the web at

About the Author

Len Wilcox

Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.