Bumble Bees May Soon Be Eligible for Listing Under the California Endangered Species Act

What is the current listing status for California bumble bees?

On May 31, 2022, the Third Appellate Court District in California ruled that “…a terrestrial invertebrate, like each of the four bumble bee species, may be listed as an endangered or threatened species under the [California Endangered Species Act],” under the definition of ‘fish.’ This reversed the judgment on a November 2020 ruling that the state could not list invertebrates under the umbrella category of ‘fish.’ As such, Crotch’s bumble bee (Bombus crotchii), western bumble bee (B. occidentalis), Franklin bumble bee (B. franklini), and Suckley’s cuckoo bumble bee (B. suckleyi) may soon be eligible for listing as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), which may impact projects across California.

What are the next steps following this ruling?

Unless there is an appeal to the California Supreme Court, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will resubmit the previously vacated candidate-for-listing petition package to the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC), which will agree with the petition’s merit, once again making the four bumble bees candidate species with all the protections of a threatened species under CESA. CDFW will have 12 months to review and provide findings to the FGC for a final decision. This also means that other petitions may be submitted for listing other invertebrate species such as butterflies. Feedback from CDFW is that the listing determination will likely be made in summer 2025.

When should bumble bee habitat assessment and surveys be conducted?

Crotch’s bumble bee is the most widespread of the four candidate species and occurs within a variety of habitats throughout the state but is primarily found in the central portions. This species can be somewhat challenging to address because of its broad geographic range, broad apparent habitat affinities and nectar plant preferences, and mobility between nest sites and foraging areas.

The active season for Crotch’s bumble bee is February through October. For the highest detection probability, surveys should be conducted between April and August, in accordance with CDFW’s Survey Considerations for California Endangered Species Act (CESA) Candidate Bumble Bee Species (June 2023).

Dudek has staff holding a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Scientific Collecting Permit (SCP) to survey for, and handle, all four candidate species throughout California.

How can Dudek help navigate this candidacy?

CESA prohibits the take of any species of wildlife designated by the California Fish and Game Commission as endangered, threatened, or candidate species. CDFW may authorize the take of any such species if certain conditions are met.

Dudek coordinates closely with CDFW to navigate the complexities of how to analyze suitable habitat and the presence (or absence) of these CESA candidate species on sites. We are advising dozens of clients throughout California on how best to assess their site’s habitat suitability, analyze impacts to these candidate species, and determine whether an Incidental Take Permit is necessary for their project.

Contact us for support navigating the candidacy or conducting bumble bee habitat assessments and surveys. Learn more about our biological services and how Dudek can support your project.