The rusty patched bumble bee finally officially made history on Tuesday.
The bee was added to America’s endangered species list, the first time a bee in the continental United States has been given this federal protection.
At the same time they’re enjoying their new status, another bee has gone missing.
Buzz, the bee mascot for Honey Nut Cheerios, has temporarily disappeared from the front of cereal boxes. General Mills banished him this month to make people aware of disappearing bee populations around the world.
In January the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under President Barack Obama, listed the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The bee’s population has declined nearly 90 percent over the last two decades.
But that designation was delayed from taking effect until March 21 after the Trump administration temporarily froze new federal regulations in February.
Environmental groups protested the hold-up, and the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council filed a federal lawsuit challenging it. Given Tuesday’s action, the group has pulled its lawsuit, according to The Washington Post.
“The Trump administration reversed course and listed the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species just in the nick of time,” said Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the NRDS said Tuesday. “Federal protections may be the only thing standing between the bumble bee and extinction.”
The bee’s new endangered status requires the federal government to make sure that it flourishes, according to NBC News. It is also now a federal crime to harm or kill the bees, which were once abundant in 28 states from Connecticut to South Dakota.
Buzz went missing in March 2016, too, when General Mills Canada temporarily removed the iconic mascot from boxes to launch the company’s #BringBackTheBees campaign.
“Two thirds of the crops used to feed people, accounting for 90% of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees,” according to Greenpeace’s Save The Bees campaign.
Rusty patched bumble bees, for instance, pollinate crops such as tomatoes, cranberries and peppers.
But bee populations have died off at alarming rates since about 2006. That’s a problem for companies like General Mills. About 30 percent of its products rely on pollination, the company says.
Duplicating a campaign it ran in Canada last year, Cheerios is currently giving away free wildflower seeds and encouraging gardeners to plant them to attract bees, butterflies and wasps.
The giveaway created a buzz of controversy when the Lifehacker blog quoted an ecologist who warned that some of the wildflowers included in the seed mix are banned in some states because they’re invasive and can spread plant diseases.
Cheerios said all of the seed varieties included in the packets are readily available at retailers across the country.
“General Mills worked with Veseys Seeds and their experts on this program,” the company said in a statement.
“It has been field-tested and is known to attract honey bees, bumble bees, and other native bees such as mining bees, leaf cutter bees, sweet bees and long-horned bees.”