Global Agriculture

Media Advisory: Public Oral Argument in Environmentalists’ Appeal Seeking to Ensure Legal Protections for Imperiled California Bumble Bees

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22 May 2022, California: On Monday, May 23, California’s Third District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in conservation groups’ legal appeal seeking to ensure California Endangered Species Act (CESA) protections for four imperiled native bumble bee species, and insects more generally. The appellants include the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the Center for Food Safety (CFS), and Defenders of Wildlife, represented by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic.

At stake in this case are critical protections needed for four imperiled bumble bee species that occur in California, as well as whether the California Fish and Game Commission (the Commission) has the legal authority to protect insects under CESA. A decision is expected within 90 days of the hearing.

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WHAT: Public oral argument in appeal seeking to ensure legal protections for imperiled California bumble bees

WHEN: Monday, May 23, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. PST


Link to stream:

Phone: Dial the following number, enter the participant PIN followed by # to confirm:

+1 (415) 466-7000 (US)       PIN: 5443541 #

The groups’ appeal challenges a 2020 decision by the Sacramento County Superior Court that determined the Commission lacked authority to list insects under CESA, including the four bumble bee species at issue in this case—the western bumble bee, Franklin’s bumble bee, Crotch’s bumble bee, and Suckley cuckoo bumble bee. The Commission, along with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, have also filed an appeal to challenge the trial court’s ruling.

In 2018, Xerces, CFS, and Defenders petitioned the Commission to list the four species of native bumble bees as endangered under CESA. As a result of the groups’ petition, the Commission voted to begin the listing process in 2019, but was sued by a consortium of California’s agricultural interests shortly after its decision. The industry argued that insects, such as the four bumble bee species, may not be listed for protection under CESA, and the trial court sided with the industry in November 2020, prompting the groups to launch an appeal in February 2021.


Bumble Bee Profiles

  • Crotch’s bumble bee (Bombus crotchii), a bee with yellow, black, and often orange on its abdomen, is considered Endangered by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN); it only persists in 20% of its historic range, and has declined by 98% in relative abundance (its abundance relative to other species of bumble bees). This bee historically occurred from the northern Central Valley to Baja Mexico, but currently persists primarily in southern coastal habitats and some areas to the north and southwest of Sacramento. 
  • The western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis) has a range that extends across the western U.S. and southern Canada. In California, it was historically known from the northern part of the state, the coastal region, and the mountains. It currently persists primarily in the Sierra Nevada; its relative abundance has declined by 84%. 
  • The Suckley cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus suckleyi) was historically found throughout the western U.S. As an obligate social parasite, it is found only where its host species of bumble bees, including the western bumble bee, remain. It is considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN and its range has declined by 58%.
  • Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus franklini), which historically occurred in an area about 60 miles wide in the Siskiyou Mountains of northern California and southern Oregon may already be extinct. Despite extensive annual surveys by the late Dr. Robbin Thorp, professor emeritus at the University of California–Davis, Franklin’s bumble bee has not been seen since 2006.
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