Why are rusty patched bumblebees dying?

Rusty patched bumblebee collects pollen
In this August 2015 photo provided by The Xerces Society, a rusty patched bumblebee collects pollen from a flower in Madison, Wis.
Rich Hatfield/The Xerces Society via AP

Earlier this week, the rusty patched bumblebee was placed on the endangered species list.

This is the first time a bumblebee species has made the list.

Charles Wooley and Tamara Smith of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discussed the bee's dramatic decline in population over the past 20 years.

Then, Eric Mader, co-director of Xerces Pollinator Conservation Program, talked about his organization's partnership with General Mills.

The breakfast cereal Cheerios encouraged its customers to order free wildflower seeds. The only problem is some of the seeds are invasive species in Minnesota.

To hear the full segment use the audio player above.

Four tips on keeping your neighborhood bees happy

From U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

Plant a mix of flowers. Rusty patched bumblebees are active from April through October (with some variation depending on how far north or south you are). Plant a mix of flowering trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants so that something is always blooming during that time. Native plants are a great choice.

Provide flowers in early spring. The only bumblebees that survive winter are mated queens. All other bumblebees die before the end of the previous season. The survival of bumblebees rests on the shoulders of these queens as they wake from winter diapause, look for nest sites and start laying eggs. Flowers for pollen and nectar are critical. Try to include spring ephemeral flowers and spring flowering trees and shrubs to help the queens start new colonies.

Don't mow and rake. Bumblebees and many other pollinators (bees, moths and butterflies) need a safe place to build their nests. During spring and summer, leave some areas of your yard unmowed. In fall, leave some areas of your yard unraked and leave standing plant stems in your flower beds.

Be pesticide free. Pesticides are harm pollinators, especially insecticides. Herbicides reduce food sources by removing flowers from the landscape.

Flowers to plant

Dutchman's breeches

Eastern waterleaf

Swamp milkweed

Native prairie coneflowers

Spotted Joe-Pyeweed

Purple prairie clover

Anise hyssop

New England aster

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