It is no surprise that more are grasping the essential role bees play in our ecosystems. If it is on our plates, it is because of the bees, either directly or indirectly. Gone are the days of bees simply being a nuisance. As awareness grows, fewer swat away to kill bees but more gently consider how to handle these little buzzing contributors. Just this week, a bee was in my car. Usually, the result would be hectic swerving and breaking out in a sweat, thinking about the sting that is inevitably coming. Instead, I calmly pulled over, thinking about how valuable that one bee was and how can I get it out of my car without killing it. The story ends successfully as the bee flew away off the visor of my hat that I had used to get him out of my car gently. We both escaped unscathed!
Some groups and organizations advocate for the protection of bees, and this week was an absolute victory for bee enthusiasts as one California court overturned a previous ruling that now protects four species of bumblebees under the California Endangered Species Act. Although everyone can say with complete confidence that bees are not fish, the interpretation of the definition of species protected under the California Endangered Species Act includes invertebrates, and bees easily fall into that category. Therefore, as of May 31, 2022, in Sacramento, bees are protected under the fish definition of the California Endangered Species Act.
California Considers Bees Fish?
That is correct. California has categorized four bumblebee species as fish to protect them under the California Endangered Species Act. Conservation groups have been fighting for years to have these bees protected under the CESA. The California Endangered Species Act states it protects native birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and plants. Initially, this definition left bees exposed and unprotected. However, although insects are not named a protected group under the CESA, invertebrates are part of the loose definition of fish, which gave conservationists enough of a loophole for the courts to change their minds.
This new ruling overturns a previous ruling that said the California Endangered Species Act only protected marine invertebrates. Beekeepers and bee protector groups argued that bees could be considered a fish according to the definition of fish under the CESA, as it includes “invertebrate” without further clarification. Since bees are invertebrates, the appeal court ruled four bumblebee species fall under the fish category, which is protected.
This has been an enormous victory for the bee community and those committed to protecting these immensely valuable species as their roles are essential and extensive.
New Ruling Protects Bees as Endangered Species
Effective May 31, 2022, there are now four species of bumblebees protected according to California’s 3rd Court of Appeal: the Franklin bumblebee, the Crotch bumblebee, the Western bumblebee, and the Suckley cuckoo bumblebee. This new ruling protects the vital and precious bee colonies from being killed intentionally. It might be surprising how many choose to inadvertently dispose of hives, damaging the colonies and killing thousands of bees. Understandably, active hives in heavy foot traffic areas can be disruptive, so removal is sometimes necessary. However, with the new ruling of bees protected under the California Endangered Species Act, removal must now be approached with care instead of recklessness.
What Does This New Ruling Mean?
To avoid fines, those needing bee removal should seek a professional bee removal company that can safely and carefully relocate hives off the property. The most qualified and trained bee removers thoughtfully relocate hives so that the colonies stay intact. Californians who choose to thoughtlessly knock down a hive or use chemicals to kill a hive or colony are subject to hefty fines now that these species are protected. How will homeowners and property owners know which species of bees are in their area? An average person would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. So, the best thing to do if an active hive needs to be relocated is to call a reputable and experienced bee removal company to follow the appropriate protocol and protect the bees while preventing any lawsuits against property owners.
Could This BEE a Victory?
Although a loophole resulted in California naming bees as fish, ultimately, the bees win. A vague definition of invertebrate has been enough for the court to turn over its previous decision, and now the California Endangered Species Act protects four critical bumblebee species. This is a victory as bees are on the decline and continue to be threatened due to climate change and urban development.
Although some may find this ruling laughable, there will likely be more cases to either overturn this decision or add more to the protected list. Do not forget that pollinators do need protection, and many do not recognize the contribution these essential pollinators make to our everyday life. The nation’s farms and ecosystems only survive if they do, and that is why California is spearheading the protection of this critical species by naming these bumblebee species as fish.