Bumblebees in dire trouble
Climate change is pushing the much-loved bumblebee to the brink of extinction, new research has found. The fuzzy, buzzy insects are among the most important pollinators in the Northern Hemisphere, helping to spread pollen and fertilize many wild plants, as well as important crops such as tomatoes, blueberries, and squash. But their numbers have been dropping for years, and to understand why, scientists looked at a database of 550,000 records detailing where the bees have been spotted since 1901. It showed that bumblebee populations had crashed by 46 percent in North America and by 17 percent across Europe in recent years when compared with the base period of 1901 to 1974. The biggest declines were in areas that have experienced the most extreme temperature swings, suggesting that climate change is a significant factor. High temperatures can cause bumblebees to overheat and can also kill the flowers on which they depend. Adding to the problem is that bees aren’t migrating to cooler areas. “They’re simply not able to colonize new regions at the same rate that they’re disappearing from old ones,” lead author Peter Soroye, from the University of Ottawa, tells NPR.org. The authors stress that climate change isn’t the only cause of the bees’ decline; pesticide use and habitat loss also play a role. They say people can help the troubled insects by planting native flowers in their gardens and leaving out leaf piles and fallen logs to create shade for the bees on scorching days.
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab, Royal Tyrrell Museum, Newscom ■