Bees Are Now Fish, Enforced By California Law

By Douglas Helm | 3 weeks ago


It’s official, according to California law, you can now say that you have flying fish in your garden. That is, as long as your garden has bees in it. Recently, a California appeals court ruled that four species of bees are legally considered fish. Confused? Well, it’s actually for a pretty good reason.

As we all know by now, bees are very good for our ecosystems. Since bees pollinate a variety of crops, trees, and other plant life, we need these little guys doing their jobs the best they can. Unfortunately, bees have also been dying off. California was able to classify bees as an endangered species. The California Endangered Species Act states that protected species fall into several categories, including birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and plants. You might notice that insects aren’t included in those categories. Since bees are invertebrates, there was a little wiggle room to sneak them into the fish category.

While that doesn’t make a lot of sense initially, you just need to dive deeper into California laws to find out how this works. In 2015, the legislation describing the categories in the California Endangered Species Act was modified to say that “fish” meant any wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, or amphibian. It also includes parts, spawn, and ovum of these animals. Therin lies your answer to how a terrestrial insect can be labeled a “fish.”

While it’s a little overly complicated to get there, the end result is what matters. With this recent ruling, California was able to list the Crotch bumble bee, the Franklin¬†bumblebee, the Suckley cuckoo bumblebee, and the Western bumblebee as endangered species. So, why all this fuss in the first place? Surely, it should be easier to list something as an endangered species than to jump through hoops and redefine the word “fish.”

Apparently, this all started with a lawsuit that was filed in 2019 against the California Fish and Game Commission. The lawsuit was filed by agricultural groups in California that stated the commission went past its normal authority when designating these species as endangered, questioning the aforementioned fish designation. In the end, the courts sided with the commission and concluded that the commission could designate non-aquatic vertebrates as fish, even if the traditional definition was a little tighter. Overall, this is definitely a weird case, but one that seemed necessary to get things straightened out.

Designating these bees as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act is important, as it gives these animals certain protections that they wouldn’t have otherwise. When a species is endangered, it means they are becoming rare enough that they’re on the verge of extinction. A protected species has a better chance of having the time to repopulate and enter the threatened category, which designates animals that are at risk of becoming endangered in the future. By definition, these four designated bee species are in danger of becoming extinct and being wiped from the planet permanently. With this new ruling, there is less of a chance that this will happen.