Bumblebee to join endangered species list?

Franklin's bumblebeeA conservation group has asked the federal government to add a bumblebee found only on the West Coast to the endangered species list.

In a petition filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and University of California at Davis entomologist Robbin Thorp are seeking to protect Franklin's bumble bee under the Endangered Species Act.

Since bumblebees pollinate almost 15% of all crops grown in the United States -- worth $3 billion, the group says -- the loss of bumblebees could hit home for consumers. Other species of bumblebee, including the yellow-banded and rusty-patched bumblebees, have also declined in numbers.

"The decline in Franklin's bumblebee should serve as an alarm that we are starting to lose important pollinators," Xerces Society executive director Scott Hoffman Black said in a statement. "We hope that Franklin's bumblebee will remind us to prevent pollinators across the U.S. from sliding toward extinction."

"Over the last 12 years I have watched the populations of this bumblebee decline precipitously," Thorp said in a statement. "My hope is this species can recover before it is too late."

The mostly black bumblebee is found in southern Oregon and northern California. During 12 years of surveys to count the bees, Thorp has seen a steady decline -- one so severe that only a single Franklin's bumblebee was seen in 2006 and none have been spotted since then.

Some think the bumblebee's decline may be because of a disease that could have spread from commercial bee colonies. Other threats may include pesticide use, invasive plants and climate change.

Pointing to that beehive disease as a national issue, WalletPop included honey bees in its 2008
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