Bee populations across the globe have suffered massive declines in recent years, and conservation groups have been carefully taking note. Earlier this week, a group of Oregon-based environmentalists from the Xerces Society filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of the Interior to have the rusty patched bumblebee added to the endangered species list, after the latter agency failed to respond to an earlier petition to increase protections for the insects.
The species has been found in fewer and fewer areas it traditionally pollinates, which conservationists say could pose a huge threat to other wildlife, and which necessitates federal intervention. As Xerces Society program director Sarina Jepsen explained to Reuters, there are a number of possibilities for the species's decline: "the leading hypothesis suggests that disease may be playing a role," but mixed pesticide use in California is also suspected to be a culprit in the bees' die-off.