There’s a lot of headlines about a California court declaring bees to be fish. And yes, that really did happen. But not because anyone believes bees are actually fish (though there is a species called the bumblebee fish). We got an explanation of what’s really going on thanks to Slate. Somehow, lawmakers left insects off the list of animals covered by the state’s Endangered Species Act. But invertebrates are listed under the definition of fish. Bees are invertebrates, thus they are covered.
So yes, it does come down to weird quirks in California environmental law. But it actually fixes a mistake that left insects, which make up 80% of all species, out of the Endangered Species Act. Hopefully it will lead to the inclusion of other insects, like the monarch butterfly. California populations have decreased 95% over the past few decades.
Bee populations collapsing worldwide has also made headlines. There are many threats to native bees, including pesticides, diseases, and even invasive bees and murder hornets.
We rely on bees to pollinate a huge percentage of our food crops. Accordingly, a press release from the Center for Food Safety celebrated the news. They credit native insects with contributing $70 billion to the economy based on their pollination services. Seems like they deserve a little protection!
The California Endangered Species Act covers mammals, bird, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and plants. The only insects protected in California are classified as endangered by the federal version of the law. Other non-fish cleared the definition of fish under the law. Crustaceans, like crayfish and shrimp, and a land snail have been on the list since the 1980s.
The federal endangered species list already protects one of the four bee species now counted as fish. But the Franklin’s bumble bee may actually already be extinct. No one has seen ones since 2006.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.