The endangered rusty patched bumblebee was designated Minnesota's state bee in 2019, and now it's featured on the newest critical habitat license plate released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Images of a monarch butterfly and a purple prairie clover wildflower also appear on the plate paying tribute to native pollinators and drawing attention to the danger they are in.

"We're very excited about this new pollinator critical habitat license plate," said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. "It's a very lovely plate that helps our pollinators, which are really important to Minnesota."

The new plate, featuring the work of artist Timothy Turene, is the 10th critical habitat license plate to be offered since the plates were introduced in 1995. Previous plates included a moose, loon, pheasant, deer, a tribute to fishing and the state flower, the lady's slipper.

Buying a plate with an annual contribution of $30 helps the DNR preserve wetlands, prairies, old growth forests and endangered orchid sites where pollinators live. Donations of more than $30 go to help the DNR buy land and preserve natural habitats.

Critical habitat plates are available online and in person at deputy registrar and driver's license offices statewide.

"Many Minnesotans share a commitment to maintaining healthy populations of bees, butterflies and other native pollinators," Strommen said.

Maintaining habitat is critical. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The rusty patched bumblebee has declined by 87% in the past 20 years and is likely to be present in only 0.1% of its historical range.

The monarch butterfly also has seen a sharp decline in North America. In December, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the butterfly warranted a place on the endangered species list.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768