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Franklin's Bumble Bee USFWS news release

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  • Sam Droege
    All Am forwarding this for US Fish and Wildlife Service...sam PDF of News Release
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 16, 2011
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      Am forwarding this for US Fish and Wildlife Service...sam

      PDF of News Release


      Text Version

      September 12, 2011 11-135
      Contact: Janet Lebson, 503-231-6179


      Endangered Species Act Protection for Franklin’s Bumble Bee May Be Warranted, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finds

      More Information Sought on its Status and Threats

      Listing the Franklin’s bumble bee under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted, the U.S. Fish and

      Wildlife Service announced today. The agency is seeking more information about its status and threats before

      making a final determination on whether or not to include it on the Endangered Species List.

      With the smallest distribution of any bumble bee in North America and perhaps the world, the Franklin’s

      bumble bee has been found in an area of about 190 miles north-south and 70 miles east-west in Douglas,

      Jackson, and Josephine counties in southwestern Oregon and in Siskiyou and Trinity counties in northern

      California. Some of its known range is on federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S.

      Forest Service and it also inhabits agricultural and urban areas.

      “We have long considered the Franklin’s bumble bee a species of concern, and surveys over a dozen years seem

      to reveal a significant decline,” said Paul Henson, State Supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s

      Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office. “We have some information on potential causes, but we don’t know

      specifically what is happening with this particular species. Our goal at this point is to invite more scientific and

      commercial information, especially from people in the agricultural community who have imported bumble bees

      for pollinating crops and from academic researchers who may know about unrecorded Franklin’s bumble bee


      The last documented sighting of the Franklin’s bumble bee was in 2006. For the last 12 years, the Fish and

      Wildlife Service has provided financial and technical support for Franklin’s bumble bee research. About

      $30,000 has been provided to Dr. Robbin Thorp, Professor Emeritus, Department of Entomology, University of

      California at Davis, for annual surveys and research.

      The number of Dr. Thorp’s sightings declined from a high of 94 individuals in 1998 to 20 in 1999, and

      continued on a downward trend until 20 were found again in 2002, and then downward again to zero until 2006,

      when a single worker was observed.

      Also in 2006, a separate BLM survey of 16 sites that were believed to provide optimal habitat for Franklin’s

      bumble bee was undertaken, but no bees were found. While some postulate that the species may now be

      extinct, conclusive evidence is not available.

      The Fish and Wildlife Service was petitioned to list the Franklin’s bumble bee under the Endangered Species

      Act as endangered and to designate critical habitat by Dr. Thorp and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate

      Conservation last year. The petitioners hypothesize that disease introduced through the use of commercially

      produced bumble bees for agricultural pollination is the primary reason for the decline. The Fish and Wildlife

      Service provided nearly $35,000 for research at a University of Illinois laboratory to study the possibility that

      the species’ decline is related to introduced pathogens that could have been spread through transport and use of

      commercial bees. Scientists identified a common strain affecting bumble bees in Europe and the U.S. and are

      trying to determine whether it was imported or is naturally occurring.

      The petition cited a wide range of potential threats, including habitat alteration, the inadequacy of regulatory

      protections, pesticides, population dynamics, climate change, and competition from other bees. Much of what

      is known is general and the degree to which these are threats to Franklin’s bumble bees in particular is unknown

      at this time.

      Bumble bees pollinate crops grown in greenhouses and open fields, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers,

      eggplant, and different berries. They also are used commercially for pollinating flowering plants. In the wild,

      they play an important role in the food chain; for example, some of the plants they pollinate produce berries that

      serve as a food source for other wildlife such as birds and bears.

      When the Fish and Wildlife Service is petitioned to list a species, there are several steps in the process.

      Generally, the first is to determine whether or not emergency listing is warranted, and if it is not, the next step is

      to issue a “90-Day Finding” on whether the petition presents substantial information that listing may be

      warranted. If it is considered potentially warranted (like today’s finding), the agency moves on to conduct a

      “status review” of the species to gather more information. The next step is a “12-Month Finding” which

      determines either that the petitioned action is warranted, that it is not warranted, or that it is warranted but

      precluded by other pending listing actions that take priority, and the species becomes a “candidate” for listing in

      the future. The status of each candidate species is re-evaluated each year until either a listing proposal is

      developed or a “not warranted” finding is made based on new information.

      The Fish and Wildlife Service is including graphics on its website,
      www.fws.gov/oregonfwo, to help with
      Franklin’s bumble bee identification. Some distinguishing characteristics of the Franklin’s bumble bee include:

      Extended yellow coloration on their middle, between the head and abdomen, which extends well beyond the
      wing bases and forms an inverted U-shape around the central patch of black;

      A lack of yellow on the abdomen;
      A predominantly black face with yellow on the top of the head; and
      White coloration at the tip of the abdomen.

      Other bumble bees with similar coloration in the range of the Franklin’s bumble bee have the yellow coloration

      extending back to the wing bases or only slightly beyond, and usually have one or more bands of yellow either

      on the middle or slightly behind the middle of the abdomen. Females of most species have yellow

      pubescence—fine hair-like structures on the face—in contrast to black on the Franklin’s bumble bee. Females

      of the western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis) and B. californicus that have black pubescence on the face

      also have the same coloration on the vertex—the top or crown of the head—in contrast to the yellow

      pubescence on the vertex in the Franklin’s bumble bee. Females of B. californicus have a long face in contrast

      to the round face of the Franklin’s bumble bee and the western bumble bee.

      Information on the Franklin’s bumble bee may be provided to: Paul Henson, State Supervisor, U.S. Fish and

      Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 SE 98
      th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97266;
      (503)–231 –6179; fax (503) 231–6195. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the

      Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339.

      The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. The

      U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search

      for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the

      Endangered Species Program, visit

      The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish,

      wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and

      trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and

      natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our

      work and the people who make it happen, visit
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