Bumblebees — yes the fuzzy, buzzy, little guys — are now technically considered fish in the state of California. A recent court ruling states that the bees, being invertebrates, can technically be considered fish, thus falling under the California Endangered Species Act.
Although invertebrates on their own are not a type of species directly protected by the act, the definition of the word “fish” is somewhat flexible. “’Fish’ means a wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn, or ovum of any of those animals,” the language of the act states.
By legally expanding the definition of fish to include invertebrates, such as bumblebees, the insects become eligible for protections from the Fish and Game Commission.
The fight to protect bumblebees first began in 2018. Amid extinction fears, groups began petitioning to get four particular bee species — the Crotch bumblebee, the Franklin bumblebee, the Suckley cuckoo bumblebee, and the Western bumblebee — included within California Endangered Species Act. A ruling in 2020, though, found that the term “invertebrates” refers only to marine creatures.
However, following an appeal, that decision was recently overruled. On May 31, the court stated that the term “fish” can indeed encompass bumblebees — with the intent of saving the insects’ lives.
Save the Bees!
Bumblebees are vital pollinators. But over the last 20 years, the American bumblebee population has decreased 89% across the U.S. due to a variety of factors. Among them: habitat loss, diseases, and rampant pesticide use. And while minimizing pesticides and planting native plans can help stabilize bumblebee numbers, targeted legal protections like those beginning in California, can offer a more targeted solution.