IUCN Wild Bee Specialist Group

About WBSG

The Wild Bee Specialist Group aims to foster the conservation of wild bees and their habitats around the world by promoting and strengthening regional and global networks of specialists, conducting assessments of their conservation status, raising awareness among the public and policy makers, and engaging in practical conservation actions at local, regional and global scale.

Background and challenge

Bees are a group of more than 20,000 species, and make essential contributions to food production and the pollination of wild flowering plants, hence supporting wider biodiversity and spiritual inspiration (IPBES 2019). Bees are part of the cosmovision and local knowledge in many cultures, and as a charismatic group linked closely to human wellbeing, they are great ambassadors for insects worldwide.

Declines in wild bees have been documented in many regions of the world and bees populations face a wide range of threats including habitat loss, agricultural intensification, pesticides, climate change, pests and diseases and alien invasive species (IPBES 2016). The IPBES report highlighted assessments of the status and trends of pollinators as one of the cornerstones for strengthening and guiding policies and conservation actions to safeguard bees.

In 2011, the Bumble Bee Specialist Group (BBSG) was established and co-chaired by Paul Williams and Sarina Jepsen. Its aim was to “implement a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the global status of all bumble bee species, based on the IUCN Red List criteria, as well as to promote bumble bee conservation worldwide”. Thanks to this initiative, 90 of ~290 bumble bee species have now been assessed, and the work is ongoing, as can be seen in its annual reports (https://bumblebeespecialistgroup.org).

In 2021, IUCN SSC widened the group to include all bees and become the Wild Bee Specialist Group (WBSG). This provides an important addition to the representation of invertebrates in the IUCN Species Survival Commission by expanding the number of species considered from ~290 to more than 20,000. Further, the scope of the WBSG has widened to go beyond assessments, and now includes the complete Assess-Plan-Act cycle.

The challenge for the WBSG will be to empower and support a diverse group of experts from across the world around two core activities: conservation assessment and engagement in practical actions. Given the strong regional differences in biogeography, scientific knowledge, policies and cultures, a key function of WBSG is its flexibility to encourage the regional definition of priorities to be addressed.

Aims of the Wild Bee Specialist Group

The workplan for the WBSG during the IUCN SSC 2021-2024 quadrennium contains 6 targets, initially formulated as follows.

  • Build and consolidate regional and global databases for wild bees
  • Develop a portfolio of best practice guides for wild bee conservation
  • Establish and strengthen dialogues with international and national policy makers
  • Support ongoing work of the Bumble Bee Sub Group
  • Establish a website, logo, social media presence, and communication network


Simon Potts, University of Reading, UK

Rémy Vandame, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico

Join the Wild Bee Specialist Group

    Database working group: wbsg-database+subscribe@googlegroups.com

    Assessment working group: wbsg-assessment+subscribe@googlegroups.com

    Practice working group: wbsg-practice+subscribe@googlegroups.com

    Policy working group: wbsg-policy+subscribe@googlegroups.com

    Communication working group: wbsg-communication+subscribe@googlegroups.com