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Sarina Jepsen, (971) 244-3727, [email protected]

Jenny Loda, (515) 441-1636, [email protected]

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—On Monday, May 23, California's Third District Court of Appeal will hear arguments from conservation groups seeking to ensure California Endangered Species Act (CESA) protections for four imperiled native bumble bee species, and insects more generally. The appellants include the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the Center for Food Safety (CFS), and Defenders of Wildlife, represented by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic.

At stake in this case are critical protections needed for four imperiled bumble bee species that occur in California, as well as whether the California Fish and Game Commission (the Commission) has the legal authority to protect insects under CESA, which it attempted in 2019. CESA provides protection for some of the most vulnerable animals in California and provides a pathway to recover populations of these animals so they will not go extinct.  A decision is expected within 90 days of the hearing.

Event information:

WHAT: Public oral argument in appeal seeking to ensure legal protections for imperiled California bumble bees

WHEN: Monday, May 23, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. PST

HOW TO JOIN: Link to stream:

Phone: Dial the following number, enter the participant PIN followed by # to confirm: +1 (415) 466-7000 (US); PIN: 5443541 #

The groups’ appeal challenges a 2020 decision by the Sacramento County Superior Court that determined the Commission lacked authority to list insects under CESA, including the four bumble bee species at issue in this case: the western bumble bee, Franklin's bumble bee, Crotch's bumble bee, and Suckley cuckoo bumble bee. The Commission, along with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, have also filed an appeal to challenge the trial court's ruling.

In 2018, Xerces, CFS, and Defenders petitioned the Commission to list the four species of native bumble bees as endangered under CESA. As a result of the groups' petition, the Commission voted to begin the listing process in 2019, but was sued by a consortium of California's largescale industrial agricultural interests shortly after its decision. The agricultural consortium argued that insects, such as the four bumble bee species, may not be listed for protection under CESA, and the trial court sided with the consortium of large industrial agricultural groups in November 2020, prompting the conservation groups to launch an appeal in February 2021.

Bumble bees are essential pollinators, and the loss of bumble bees can have far ranging ecological consequences. Alarmingly, recent work by the Xerces Society in concert with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bumble Bee Specialist Group indicates that more than one quarter (28%) of all North American bumble bees are at risk of extinction. While this case is about protecting four species of highly imperiled bumble bees, it is also about the ability of California to protect other insects, like the monarch butterfly. Millions of monarch butterflies used to call California home but the California population has declined by 95%, threatening and end to one of nature’s most dazzling displays in the majestic coastal monarch groves.

Over 80% of animals in California are insects and they are the backbone of ecosystems. The vast majority of bats, birds and freshwater fish depend on insects as food, and humans and wildlife depend on insect pollination for fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Native pollinators such as bumble bees are vital for the pollination of a variety of fruits and vegetables. Studies have highlighted the economic importance of insects, valuing them at more than $70 billion per year to the U.S. economy.

The public supports protection for pollinators and are concerned about their welfare. A 2020 poll conducted by Colorado College found that 80% of voters in the western states surveyed said that loss of pollinators was a serious problem, including people living in cities (85%), suburbs (81%), small towns (77%), and rural areas (76%).


Bumble Bee Profiles

  • Crotch's bumble bee (Bombus crotchii), a bee with yellow, black, and often orange on its abdomen, is considered Endangered by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN); it only persists in 20% of its historic range, and has declined by 98% in relative abundance (its abundance relative to other species of bumble bees). This bee historically occurred from the northern Central Valley to Baja Mexico, but currently persists primarily in southern coastal habitats and some areas to the north and southwest of Sacramento.
  • The western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis) has a range that extends across the western U.S. and southern Canada. In California, it was historically known from the northern part of the state, the coastal region, and the mountains. It currently persists primarily in the Sierra Nevada; its relative abundance has declined by 84%.
  • The Suckley cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus suckleyi) was historically found throughout the western U.S. As an obligate social parasite, it is found only where its host species of bumble bees, including the western bumble bee, remain. It is considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN and its range has declined by 58%.
  • Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini), which historically occurred in an area about 60 miles wide in the Siskiyou Mountains of northern California and southern Oregon may already be extinct. Despite extensive annual surveys by the late Dr. Robbin Thorp, professor emeritus at the University of California–Davis, Franklin's bumble bee has not been seen since 2006.


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The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is a science-based, international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. By utilizing applied research, engaging in advocacy, providing educational resources, addressing policy implications, and building community, we endeavor to make meaningful long-term conservation a reality. Xerces works to raise awareness about the plight of invertebrates and to gain protection for the most vulnerable species before they decline to a level at which recovery is impossible. Learn more at

Center for Food Safety's mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than one million members across the country at Twitter: @CFSTrueFood