The rusty patch bumblebee just became the first bee within the continental U.S. to be listed as endangered.

The declaration came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a critical move that could help protect the insect species which, only recently, has been understood as critical to Earth’s ecosystem.

“Listing the bee as endangered will help us mobilize partners,” said Wildlife Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius, “and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline.”

Since the late 1990’s, the rusty patched bumblebee population numbers declined by 87%.

From a macro-ecosystem perspective, bees play an integral role in pollinating critical food supplies, approximately 35% of global food sources. These include blueberries, cranberries, tomatoes, and many other fruits and vegetables.

“The rusty patched bumblebee is among a group of pollinators, including the monarch butterfly, experiencing serious declines across the country,” said Melius,”Why is this important? Pollinators are small but mighty parts of the natural mechanism that sustains us and our world. Without them … our crops require laborious, costly pollination by hand.”

There are a variety of reasons for the drastic plummet in rusty patch bumblebee numbers, the primary of which includes a loss of habitat.

Approximately 40% of all land is ultimately utilized for agricultural purposes, though other factors like the spraying of pesticides are also contributing factors.

A wide variety of bumblebees species exist—in fact there are 47 of them location within North America.

Although the rusty patched bumblebee made the endangered species list, a spokesperson for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Sarina Jepsen, says that 25% of all bumblebee species could potentially go extinct in a relatively short period of time.

“Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered,” said Sarina, “it stands a chance of surviving the many threats its faces.”