Finally — some good news for the bees of Hawaii.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given endangered status to seven species of yellow-faced bees native to the islands. These are "the first bees in the country to be protected under the Endangered Species Act," according to the Xerces Society, which advocated for the new designation.
The new rule designating protections for the bees, published Friday in the Federal Register, states that yellow-faced bees are known "for their yellow-to-white facial markings." They look like small wasps, according to the rule, except for their "plumose [branched] hairs on the body that are longest on the sides of the thorax, which readily distinguish them from wasps."
The yellow-faced bee is the only bee native to Hawaii, meaning that it was able to reach the Hawaiian islands on its own, according to a fact sheet provided by the University of Hawai'i's Master Gardner Program. "From that one original colonist they evolved into 63 known endemic species, about 10% of the world's yellow-faced bees and more than are found in this genus in all of North America."
But the populations of these seven species are getting smaller and smaller, according to Fish and Wildlife. For example, the Hylaeus anthracinus was once found in dozens of locations around Hawaii but is now in only 15 — while Hylaeus hilaris and Hylaeus kuakea are each found only in one location.