Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 7, 2021


Tara Cornelisse, (510) 844-7154,

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Firefly, Bees, Poppy Under Endangered Species Act

Trump Administration Drags Feet as Insects Show Dangerous Global Declines

OAKLAND, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to protect four imperiled insects and one plant under the Endangered Species Act.

The insects are the Bethany Beach firefly, Franklin’s bumblebee, Gulf Coast solitary bee and Mojave poppy bee, a solitary and specialist pollinator that depends on a plant species called the Las Vegas bearpoppy, also named in the notice.

A growing body of evidence is exposing alarming global declines in insects caused by habitat loss, pesticides, climate change and other threats. Recent evidence shows 40% of insect species could soon be facing extinction.

“Insects play vital roles that keep our world functioning, but they’re declining by about 10% per decade, nearly twice as fast as other animals,” said Dr. Tara Cornelisse, an entomologist and senior scientist at the Center. “We can’t stand by while the Trump administration delays lifesaving protections to some of the most imperiled creatures around.”

Following the Center’s petitions to protect the firefly, solitary bees and poppy as endangered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the species may warrant protection under the Act. But it failed to make a listing determination within the required 12-month period. It also failed to finalize its August 2019 proposed rule to protect the Franklin’s bumblebee as endangered.

Long delays in protecting species under the Act have been a persistent problem for decades. On average species have waited 12 years for protection during the Act’s 40-plus-year history, and at least 47 species have gone extinct waiting for protection.

“The Endangered Species Act is incredibly successful at preventing extinctions and is a key tool for reversing declines of threatened insects and the species they depend on,” said Cornelisse. “But these five species can’t wait 12 years. The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to take swift action to give them the full protections they need to survive.”

In 2016 the Fish and Wildlife Service developed a workplan to address a portion of the more than 500 species waiting for protection. But because of interference from the Trump administration, the agency has failed to make dozens of findings every year since. In 2020 the Trump Fish and Wildlife Service failed to make decisions for 58 species identified in its workplan.

Last year the Center filed suit in Washington, D.C. over more than 200 species from the workplan that await decisions, including dozens of insects. In addition to the five species included in today’s notice, the Center plans to initiate lawsuits for another 15 species waiting for listing and 89 species waiting for designation of critical habitat.

The Center hopes to work out a schedule with the Biden administration to ensure these species get protection and avoid extinction.

Species Highlights

Bethany Beach firefly — This dangerously imperiled firefly has been documented at only seven sites along the Delaware coast, virtually all of them smaller than a football field.

Gulf Coast solitary bee — This bee has been documented at only six locations in Florida, and the last state-wide count documented only 47 of the pollinators.

The firefly and the bee face similar threats of urban development, pesticides and climate change-driven sea-level rise.

Franklin’s bumblebee — Although once common throughout southern Oregon and Northern California, the bumblebee began declining precipitously in 1998 and was last seen in 2006. It may already be extinct due to pathogens, pesticides and small population sizes.

Mojave poppy bee — Once widespread across the Mojave Desert, the Mojave poppy bee is now found in only seven locations in Nevada’s Clark County. In its remaining habitat, the specialist pollinator only feeds its offspring pollen from the equally imperiled Las Vegas bearpoppy.

Las Vegas bearpoppy — Over the past 20 years the rare flower has disappeared across more than half of its range, and dramatically decreased in nearly 90% of the remaining areas.

Both the poppy bee and the poppy are threatened by Las Vegas urban sprawl, gypsum mining, grazing, non-native honeybees and poorly managed off-highway vehicle use.

Mojave poppy bee pollinating Las Vegas bearpoppy (credit Zach Portman, Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota.) Photos of other species available on request. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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