January 11, 2017 2:07 PM EST

For the first time, a bumble bee species has been listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The rusty patched bumble bee used to be pervasive in the American Midwest, but now experts say it is extremely difficult to find. The designation will help protect the rusty patched bumble bees’ habitat in addition to raising awareness.

Bumble bees play an important role as pollinators, and the decimation of their population could have grave repercussions throughout the ecosystem. “This bee is kind of like the canary in the coal mine,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Tamara Smith told the Washington Post. Its declining numbers could spell bad news for other species of bees and butterflies.

[Washington Post]


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