National Geographic: 660 species of bees live in newly shrunk national monument

Photo by Joseph S Wilson. The following genera are pictured: (A) Nomada, (B) Perdita, (C) Hylaeus, (D) Agapostemon, (E) Osmia, (F) Anthidium, and (G) Diadasia.

All in all, a whopping 660 species live within the monument’s boundaries. That’s nearly every fifth bee species in North America. Forty-nine of these were entirely new to science, according to the recently published research.

Why this remote patch of Utah is such a busy place for bees is somewhat of a mystery. It likely mirrors the diversity of desert flowers the insects pollinate, as well as the range of habitats—from sandstone canyons and sagebrush-peppered deserts to aspen and pine forests at higher elevations.

But the fate of Grand Staircase-Escalante’s bee hotspot is uncertain. Following President Donald Trump’s decision last year to shrink the 22-year old monument, the area was reduced to half its original size and sliced up into three smaller monuments in February. The once continuous stretch of protected habitat—allowing many animals like cougars and bears to roam freely with little human interference—is now broken up, while the excluded areas could see dramatic changes through development or mining activities.