Its remaining homes are in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada.
The bee pollinates a wide range of plants, including important crops such as tomatoes, peppers and cranberries.
"The rusty patched bumble bee is among a group of pollinators – including the monarch butterfly – experiencing serious declines across the country," Melius said. "Why is this important? Pollinators are small but mighty parts of the natural mechanism that sustains us and our world. Without them, our forests, parks, meadows and shrub lands, and the abundant, vibrant life they support, cannot survive, and our crops require laborious, costly pollination by hand."
The bee will officially gain protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act on February 10. The FWS encouraged citizens to help out by planting native flowers, limiting or avoiding use of pesticides, fostering natural landscapes, and leaving grass and garden plants uncut after summer (so overwintering bees will have suitable habitats).