Of the more than 500 species of yellow-faced bees worldwide, many are found only in Hawaiʻi, such as Hylaeus akoko (only on Hawaiʻi Island), or Hylaeus anomalus (only on Oʻahu). With extremely narrow ranges and sparse numbers (not to mention, human development), it’s no wonder they’re endangered.
But with new funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Competitive State Wildlife Grant program, Hawaiʻi is among 16 states that can continue its efforts in protecting key wildlife species: Hawaiian yellow-faced bees, land snails, and ʻelepaio birds.
“The program aims to understand the resource needs of and threats to endangered native species, including the yellow-faced bees, with the goal of developing management tools or strategies to recover their populations,” explains Paul Krushelnycky of the Dept. of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences. “Yellow-faced bees are Hawaiʻi's only native bees, and they are important pollinators of native plants.”
The ongoing collaboration between the Hawaiʻi Dept. of Land and Natural Resources, FWS’ Coastal Program, and CTAHR has mainly focused on several coastal species. So far, the researchers have learned about the plants both pollinated by these species and relied upon to provision their nests. They’ve also studied seasonal trends in the bees’ floral resource use and nesting activity, as well as competitors, predators and parasitoids that impact their success.
Thanks to the new grant, this information will be leveraged to guide plant restoration strategies, provide nesting habitats, and conduct translocations to establish new populations.
"Over the past few years, my collaboration with Hawaiʻi DLNR and USFWS Coastal Program has yielded a lot of great information about the floral and nesting resource needs of endangered coastal yellow-faced bees,” says Paul. “I'm excited that we can now continue this partnership and put that knowledge into practice, by restoring native habitat for these bees and revitalizing coastal ecosystems."
“We are thrilled to be able to continue our work for the benefit of endangered yellow-faced bees,” adds PI Cynthia King of Hawaiʻi DLNR, Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “The USFWS State Wildlife Grant (SWG) program has been pivotal in providing funds for native invertebrate conservation which wouldn’t otherwise be available for on-the-ground projects in Hawaiʻi. Past awards have allowed us to tackle immediate threats and conservation challenges relating to endangered kahuli tree snails and damselflies, and our state insect, the Kamehameha butterfly. This year’s invertebrate projects are great because they build off of knowledge and experience we’ve gained during previous SWG projects.”
Photos courtesy of Dr. Sheldon Plentovich, FWS Coastal Program, and Dr. Jason Graham, formerly with CTAHR.