US adds first bees to endangered species list

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(Reuters) - Seven types of bees once found in abundance in Hawaii but now facing extinction on Friday became the first bees to be added to the federal list of endangered and threatened species, according to U.S. wildlife managers.

The listing decision, published on Friday in the Federal Register, classifies seven varieties of yellow-faced or masked bees as endangered, due to such factors as habitat loss, wildfires and the invasion of nonnative plants and insects.

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HOMESTEAD, FL - MAY 19: A honeybee is seen at the J & P Apiary and Gentzel's Bees, Honey and Pollination Company on May 19, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama's administration announced May 19, that the government would provide money for more bee habitat as well as research into ways to protect bees from disease and pesticides to reduce the honeybee colony losses that have reached alarming rates. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A bee collects pollen in a sunflower field, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, near Lawrence, Kan. The 40 acre field planted annually by the Grinter family draws bees and lovers of sunflowers alike during the weeklong late summer blossoming of the flowers. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The bees, so named for yellow-to-white facial markings, once crowded Hawaii and Maui but recent surveys found their populations have plunged in the same fashion as other types of wild bees – and some commercial ones - elsewhere in the United States, federal wildlife managers said.

Pollinators like bees are crucial for the production of fruits, nuts and vegetables and they represent billions of dollars in value each year to the nation's agricultural economy, U.S. officials said.

Placing yellow-faced bees under federal safeguards comes just over a week since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding the imperiled rusty patched bumble bee, a prized but vanishing pollinator once found in the upper Midwest and Northeastern United States, to the endangered and threatened species list.

One of several wild bee species seen declining over the past two decades, the rusty patched bumble bee is the first in the continental United States formally proposed for protections.

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