What’s the buzz? Minn. could soon have a state bee

Endangered Bumblebee
This 2012 photo provided by The Xerces Society shows a rusty patched bumblebee in Minnesota. Federal officials said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, that the rusty patched bumblebee has become the first bee species in the continental U.S. to be declared endangered after suffering a dramatic population decline over the past 20 years. (Sarina Jepsen/The Xerces Society via AP)

Minnesota could soon have a new state symbol -- this one a bumblebee.

The House environment budget bill, set for a vote Tuesday, designates the rusty patched bumblebee as the state bee. It would join the blueberry muffin, milk and walleye among the roster of state symbols.

Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, said it’s not a trivial gesture.

“If it was just a symbol, I would not do this. I voted against the state apple designation and generally have voted against naming more and more symbols," Hansen said, wearing a pin honoring the bee on his sport coat. "The key thing here is we are naming it as a state symbol and providing protection, endangered species protection in law.”

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Hansen said there are several pollinator protection measures in what he’s calling his “omnibuzz” bill. He said the aim is to encourage everyone from farmers to urban dwellers to keep the tiniest parts of the ecosystem vibrant.

“We need to pay attention to the little things. We’re all part of this web of life. We often think of elephants or the large mammals that are at risk of extinction,” Hansen said. “But it’s the little things that are part of this web of life that we often overlook. And so here’s something we can do right now in Minnesota that can protect something that’s part of our ecosystem.”

A comparable measure has not advanced in the Senate, so it will be up to later negotiations to determine if supporters exchange hive-fives or just feel stung in the end.