Endemic Molokai bees deserve, but do not receive, endangered species protection, yet

| September 13, 2011 | 1 Comment

After a 12-month study, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided not to place seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees on the Endangered Species Act list. One of these species, Hylaeus hilaris, is found exclusively on Molokai at the Mo’omomi reserve.

The yellow-faced bees species Hylaeus hilaris. Photo courtesy of Karl Magnacca, University of Hawaii.


Although the study, published last Tuesday, states that that these species deserve to be listed as endangered, the FWS said it is not possible because of “higher priority actions.” The Service did say it would add these seven species to its candidates species list. A proposed rule to list these seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees will be completed as Service priorities allow. A determination on critical habitat will be conducted during development of the proposed listing rule.

The seven species belong to the Hawaiian genus Hylaeus, commonly known as yellow-faced bees or masked bees, for their yellow to white facial markings. Lacking common names for each species, the seven species are identified by their scientific names Hylaeus anthracinus, Hylaeus assimulans, Hylaeus facilis, Hylaeus hilaris, Hylaeus kuakea, Hylaeus longiceps, and Hylaeus mana.

Petitions from the Xerces Society received by the FWS in March of 2009 requested that the Service list these seven species as endangered and that critical habitats be designated. A year later, the Service issued a finding indicating the listing of these seven Hawaiian yellow-faced bees may be warranted. Now, the listing is considered warranted.

“We are extremely disappointed that these rare pollinators did not receive full Endangered Species Act protection,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. “It is our hope that the Service will follow through on their finding, so that these bees do not go extinct while waiting to be listed.”

Threats to the seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees include the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of their habitat by urbanization, land use conversion, nonnative plants and animals; predation by nonnative ants and the western yellow jacket wasp; inadequate habitat protection; small population sizes; and competition with nonnative invertebrates such as the European honey bee. These threats are ongoing and, in some cases (such as some nonnative species) are considered irreversible. Fire is also a potential threat to the habitat of these species in some locations.

Besides the Hylaeus hilaris, three other species can be found on Molokai, including Hylaeus facilis, Hylaeus longiceps and Hylaeus anthracinus. These three species can be found at three locations on the Kalaupapa peninsula as well as on other islands. Only the Hylaeus hilaris is endemic to Molokai.

Copies of the notice of the 12-month petition finding may be downloaded from the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov/pacificislands/.

For further information contact: Loyal Mehrhoff, Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 3-122, Box 50088, Honolulu, Hawaii 96850; telephone 792-9400 or fax 792-9581.

Category: Hawaiian Culture, News, Sustainability

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