I’ve written previously on the crucial role of honey bees and the hard time they are having. The plight of the bumblebee is equally disturbing and important.
According to University of Illinois’s Sydney Cameron, in the United States some bumblebee populations are disappearing at a frightening rate. U of I researchers are investigating the potential causes.
Researchers examined eight of the 50 species in the USA and found that in the last two decades, half of the species declined in relative abundance by as much as 96 percent. Also determined was a major decrease in their geographic range by as much as 87 percent.
While bumblebees don’t produce honey for human consumption, like the honey bee they play a major part in the nation’s food production. Apparently bumblebees are very important in the pollination of food crops such as blueberries and tomatoes.
Professor Cameron says North American queen bees may have possibly brought a parasite called Nosema bombi back to USA from European rearing facilities, however she was quick to point out this is just a hypothesis currently being tested. Nosema bombi is a microsporidian parasite; a type of fungus (fungi?).
Professor Cameron said that bumblebees with considerable population declines have a lower genetic diversity than bumblebees with healthier populations. Lower genetic diversity in any species isn’t good news as it can leave them vulnerable to a multitude of threats.
Bees are so much more than just another bug. As I learn more about insects, I’m increasingly discovering there’s really no such thing as “just another bug” – they all play very important roles. Perhaps we need to cultivate more of a sense of awe of these creatures we often stomp on, spray or splat without a second thought.
Learn more about bees and our food.