A bumble bee found in South Carolina is declining so precipitously it is being considered for listing as an endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that the Southern Plains bumble bee and eight other species across the country should be considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Bees and other insects gather on a sunflower May 18, 2012, at the Agro Brasilia, an agricultural exhibition on the outskirts of Brasilia, Braz…

The bee once was in 26 states but has disappeared from Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Dakota and Ohio so far. It is found in the Southeast and into the Midwest.

Scientists say it could go extinct within 80 to 90 years.

The problem is an almost overwhelming collection of challenges — loss of habitat, pesticide use, pathogens from managed pollinators, competition with non-native bees and climate change, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation said. The Portland, Oregon, nonprofit is named for an extinct California butterfly, Xerces Blue.

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The Fish and Wildlife Service described the Southern Plains bumble bee as “a large black and yellow bumble bee identified by its short hair, short head and typically yellow coloring between the head and thorax, between the wings.”

It stings when its nest is threatened but unlike honey bees it can sting more than once because its stinger does not stay in its victim. It is generally, though, a gentle bee that goes about its pollinating with gusto.

It doesn’t produce honey but is important for its role in the pollination of crops, wildflowers and other plants.

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Also taking the next steps toward being classified as endangered are the betta hendra, betta rutilans, Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander, pygmy rabbit, Railroad Valley toad, southwest spring firefly, white-margined penstemon, and yellow-spotted woodland salamander, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

Most of those species are in western states, except the salamanders, one of which is found in hardwood and cove forests in Hickory Nut Gorge in western North Carolina and the other in the Appalachian Plateau in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Fish and Wildlife Service turned down the petition to do further study on the eastern hellbender, an amphibian that lives under rocks in Pennsylvania and other Mid-Atlantic states.

You can help

Bumble Bee Watch is a community science project that asks people to upload photos of the bumble bees they see and have identifications verified by scientists.

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