bee

Buzz the alarm: Climate change puts squeeze on bumblebees

Global warming is putting the squeeze on bumblebees. In the most comprehensive study ever conducted of the impacts of climate change on critical pollinators, scientists have discovered that global warming is rapidly shrinking the area where these bees are found in both North America and Europe.

Researchers examined more than 420,000 historical and current records of many species of bumblebees–and confirm that bumblebees are in steep decline at a continental scale because of climate change. The new research is reported in the journalĀ Science.

ECONOMIC THREATS

This shrinking range is bad news for more than bees. “Bumblebees pollinate many plants that provide food for humans and wildlife,” says Leif Richardson, a scientist at the University of Vermont who helped lead the new research. “If we don’t stop the decline in the abundance of bumblebees, we may well face higher food prices, diminished varieties, and other troubles.”

“Pollinators are vital for food security and our economy, and widespread losses of pollinators due to climate change will diminish both,” stated Jeremy Kerr, a biologist from the University of Ottawa, who led the new study. “We need to figure out how we can improve the outlook for pollinators at continental scales, but the most important thing we can do is begin to take serious action to reduce the rate of climate change.”

With climate change, many species of animals, including butterflies, have been observed to expand their territory: the northern edge of their range marches toward the North Pole–while the southern edge remains in place. Not so bumblebees. The team of fourteen scientists who conducted the new study found that northern populations of many bumblebee species are staying put–while the southern range edge is retreating away from the equator.

Read more