The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing seven Hawaiian yellow-faced bee species as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
For the next year, the Fish and Wildlife Service will review the status of the bees to determine whether they warrant federal protection. The agency will also determine where the bees live and what areas may need protection if the bees are declared endangered.
The agency called for the review in response to petitions from the Xerces Society, an Oregon-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat worldwide. Xerces is asking the agency to classify the bees as threatened or endangered, and to protect critical bee habitat on Oahu, the Big Island and across Maui County.
“Bees are so important to us as pollinators,” said Xerces Executive Director Scott Hoffman Black. “Native bees are really the foundation of entire ecosystems.”
According to the petitions, the bees are being threatened by the loss of coastal and lowland habitat, the influx of invasive species and, in some locations, fire.
Loyal Mehroff, field supervisor for the agency’s Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, said the species are critical pollinators of native Hawaiian plant species and their loss threatens the entire native ecosystem.
The bees are also known as plasterer bees because of they line their nests with salival secretions and are known as yellow-faced or masked bees because of their yellow to white facial markings.