In 2018 Yellow Faced Bees were discovered on the Mokio coastline.
A little background from National Geographic:
As the legend goes, when star-crossed lovers Naupaka and Kaui knew they’d be forever separated, Naupaka took the flower from behind her ear and tore it in two pieces, keeping one and giving Kaui the other.
As she went to the mountains, and he to the sea, the plants around them felt their sorrow, and from then on bloomed only in half-flowers.
Such is the Hawaiian myth behind the naupaka, a beach shrub native to the islands whose flowers look like they’re missing half of their petals.
Now the plants are linked to another sad event: Their primary pollinators, a group of more than 60 yellow-faced bee species in the genus Hylaeus, are disappearing fast. So fast that on September 30, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deemed seven Hylaeus species as endangered—the first bees ever on the list.
In the early 1900s, yellow-faced bees were the most abundant Hawaiian insects, ranging from the coastlines to the mountains and even the subalpine slopes of Mauna Kea.
Yet habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change have hit Hawaii’s only native bees so hard that they’re now one of the state’s least observed pollinators. Only two known populations of H. anthracinus, one of the most studied species, remain on the island of Oahu, and a few small populations are scattered across several other islands, according to recent surveys.
“What we saw was really alarming—the bees were doing a lot worse than we thought,” says Cynthia King, an entomologist with Hawaii’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
In 2010, the state government stepped up efforts to learn more about the bees. Around the same time, the invertebrate nonprofit Xerces Society submitted a petition to federally protect seven yellow-faced bees. Saving these species is a “necessary part” of the White House’s strategy to protect pollinators, says Xerces executive director Scott Black.
“We should protect the rarest of the rare.”