ROCKFORD, Ill. — A northern Illinois county will use a $5,500 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore a habitat for an endangered bumble bee.

The rusty patched bumblebee was added to the federal endangered species list in March, the Rockford Register Star reported. It’s one of 10 bumblebee species found in Winnebago County.

The Forest Preserves of Winnebago County will use the grant to create an ideal habitat for the bumblebee by restoring 15 acres of Kieselburg Forest Preserve in Machesney Park with prairie grass and wildflowers.

The bumblebee appears in the spring and hibernates in the fall. It needs a constant supply of flowers blooming from April through September.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials say the bumblebee’s population has declined by 87 percent since the late 1990s.

“We don’t know what’s really behind their decline, but creating a good habitat for this bee is the best thing we know we can do to prevent their further decline,” said Barbara Williams, a volunteer who monitors various insect, bat and bird populations for the forest preserves.

Wildlife biologists have said disease, parasites, pesticides, loss of habitat and climate change could be reasons for the decline.

Bumblebees pollinate important crops, including tomatoes, cranberries and peppers. According to the Department of Agriculture, insects, including bees, provide the U.S. with pollination services valued at an estimated $3 billion a year.


Information from: Rockford Register Star, http://www.rrstar.com