Native bees and pollinators in general can be managed for a wildlife tax valuation on properties in Texas. Pollinator numbers have been steadily declining for decades, with many species having been hit especially hard. Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the rusty patched bumblebee an endangered species — the first such designation for a bumblebee and for a bee species in the continental U.S.
The protected status, which goes into effect on February 10, 2017, includes requirements for federal protections and the development of a recovery plan. It also means that states with habitats for this species are eligible for federal funds.
Managing for Native Bees
There is no doubt that bee management specifically and pollinator management in general will be front and center within the U.S. and around the world. These invertebrates are invaluable to our food supply and both native plants and people need them .
“Today’s Endangered Species listing is the best—and probably last—hope for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee,” NRDC Senior Attorney Rebecca Riley said in a statement from the Xerces Society, which advocates for invertebrates. “Bumble bees are dying off, vanishing from our farms, gardens, and parks, where they were once found in great numbers.”
Large parts of the Eastern and Midwestern United States were once crawling with these bees, Bombus affinis, but the bees have suffered a dramatic decline in the last two decades due to habitat loss and degradation, along with pathogens and pesticides.
Indeed, the bee was found in 31 states and Canadian provinces before the mid- to late-1990s, according to the final rule published in the Federal Register. But since 2000, it has been reported in only 13 states and Ontario, Canada. It has seen an 88 percent decline in the number of populations and an 87 percent loss in the amount of territory it inhabits.
The bees live in large colonies that can be made up of 1,000 individual workers. All types of the species have black heads, the rule states, “but only workers and males have a rusty reddish patch centrally located on the abdomen.”
The Wildlife Tax Valuation in Texas
The degradation of habitat is bad for native plants and animals, but may be particularly harmful to bumblebees because of their feeding habits. Bumblebees are one of the first bees to emerge early in the spring and the last to go into hibernation, so to meet their nutritional needs, these species requires a constant and diverse supply of blooming flowers.
The ability for Texas landowners to maintain an agricultural tax valuation on properties managed for native wildlife resources was passed in the early 1990’s. Just recently, however, wildlife tax valuation guidelines were established by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for managing for bees and other native pollinators. It’s a win-win for property owners and pollinators.
Property owners can implement practices on rural lands such as maintaining natural cover and planting fields to more diverse herbaceous plants in exchange for favorable tax rates. In short, Texas landowners can maintain the low ag taxes that they currently enjoy on their lands without participating in traditional agricultural practices. It’s an especially attractive proposition for property owners with 15-50 acres, where the economics of making money through either farming or ranching becomes questionable.
Bees in Texas
There are 9 species of bumblebees found in Texas. There is no doubt that the ongoing urbanization of Texas is impacting the natural resources of the state, including bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Pollinator decline is a global trend. A recent major global assessment sponsored by the U.N. suggested that about 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species are facing extinction. Since about 75 percent of food crops rely at least partially on bees and other pollinators, that raises serious concerns about the future of the global food supply.
Last October, the Fish and Wildlife Service gave endangered status to seven species of yellow-faced bees native to Hawaii, the first time any U.S. bees received this kind of protection. Now, the rusty patched bumblebee. To say that Texas has a fair amount of agriculture would be an understatement, but what is the status of the state’s bee and other pollinating species?
Most property owners that maintain a wildlife tax valuation on their property do so by managing for vertebrates such as birds, bats and deer, but will the focus switch to pollinators since humans and all of the aforementioned animals rely on bees to pollinate, help produce the foods they eat, too?