Posts Tagged: bumble bees
Some species of bumble bees are disappearing at an alarming rate.
And that, in itself, is alarming.
A three-year study published Jan. 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) “uncovered major losses in the relative abundance of several bumble bee species and declines in their geographic range since record-keeping began in the late 1800s,” according to a University of Illinois press release.
The interdisciplinary study, led by Sydney Cameron of the Department of Entomology and Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois, showed that "declining bumble bee populations have lower genetic diversity than bumble bee species with healthy populations and are more likely to be infected with Nosema bombi, an intracellular parasite known to afflict some species of bumble bees in Europe."
“The national analysis found that the relative abundances of four of the eight species analyzed have declined by as much as 96 percent and that their surveyed geographic ranges have shrunk by 23 to 87 percent,” according to the news release. “Some of these contractions have occurred in the last two decades.”
Cameron and his colleagues studied eight of the 50 species of bumble bees found in North America. Of the eight, four are significantly in trouble.
Said Cameron: "They could potentially recover; some of them might. But we only studied eight. This could be the tip of the iceberg.”
Noted bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, today discussed the declining bumble bee population with KTVU Fox 2 health and science editor John Fowler. The segment aired tonight on the 6 o'clock news.
Thorp and Fowler walked around the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a bee friendly garden planted next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road. Thorp monitors the garden for bees.
The Cameron study looked at three western bumble bees: Bombus vosnesenskii (yellow-faced bumble bee), B. bifarius, and B. occidentalis.
Of those western bumble bees, only B. occidentalis is in decline “and that one only in the western part of its range,” Thorp told us.
“Although the study treated B. pensylvanicus as the eastern species in decline, the researchers did not consider its very close western relative, B. sonorus, which used to be very common here and the rest of the Central Valley, but has virtually disappeared here since about 2003,” Thorp said.
"Both these species are doing well from the southern USA down into Mexico, however. This is a curious reversal of what one would expect if global warming might be a cause.”
Bumble bees, commercially reared to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and strawberries, pollinate about 15 percent of our food crops, valued at $3 billion, Thorp said.
Thorp has been tracking the now critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini) since 1998. "It has the most restricted distribution range of any bumble bee in North America and possibly the world. Its range is about 190 miles north to south and 70 miles east to west in a narrow stretch between southern Oregon and northern California between the coast and Sierra-Cascade range,” he said.
Its known distribution includes Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties in Oregon and Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California. It lives at elevations ranging from 540 feet in the north to 6800 feet in the south.
The decline, disappearance and possible demise of Franklin’s bumble bee, is closely linked to the widespread decline of native pollinators in North America, Thorp said, and should concern all facets of society. “The loss of a native pollinator could strike a devastating blow to the ecosystem, economy and food supply.”
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee
Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, is a study in diversity.
Bees, including honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees and sweat bees, along with other pollinators, share the pollen and nectar in the half-acre bee friendly garden.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, has logged some 50 different species of bees in the garden since its inception. He began a baseline monitoring process when the garden was a field of weeds, instead of dreams.
Today we spotted a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii)
and a honey bee sharing a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Minutes later, a honey bee and a sweat bee occupied another coneflower.
The garden, planted last fall, changes daily, which it is meant to do. When the grand opening celebration of the haven takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, expect to see scores of visitors--both humans and pollinators--sharing the garden.
Nature's creatures are nature's features at the Solano County Fair, Vallejo, being held Wednesday, June 23 through Sunday, June 27.
Creative exhibitors, in a "this-bug's-for-you" mood, transformed butterflies, ladybugs and bumble bees into arts and crafts projects being displayed in McCormack Hall. The fair is located at 900 Fairgrounds Drive.
You'll see butterfly-inspired quilts, an educational ladybug display, a table-setting dotted with ladybugs, and huge paper mache bumble bee smiling from ear to ear--oops, from antenna to antenna.
If a county fair is a place to educate, inform and entertain--and it is--these displays do just that.
Sometimes folks think of pollinators only during National Pollinator Week, (under way this week through June 27), but it should be an every-day occurrence.
To appreciate and protect them, we need to be reminded of their existence and their role in our environment, our world and our lives.
Everybody loves a bumble bee.
Especially the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
And especially a queen.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and first-year entomology graduate student Emily Bzydk collected a few native bees to show visitors at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during UC Davis Picnic Day last Saturday.
One of the bumble bees: a regal queen.
When Picnic Day ended, they kindly let me take her home to our tower of jewels (Echium wildprettii), a biennial plant that looks somewhat like a red-jeweled Christmas tree. "Tower of jewels" is indeed a fitting name. It towers (nine-feet high) and it sparkles like rubies.
We placed the lethargic queen on a blossom and fed her honey for quick energy. She quickly sipped about an eighth of a teaspoon, buzzed me twice (Hey, I'm your friend!), returned for more honey, and then took flight.
The queen circled the plant twice and was gone.
From the Bohart Museum display to a showy tower of jewels--all in one day.
Queen Bumble Bee
Flight of the Bumble Bee
The bumble bee population is declining and some species are teetering on the brink of extinction.
That's the gist behind why three conservation groups and bumble bee researcher Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, are asking the federal government to impose regulations on the movement and health of commercial bumble bees to protect the declining native/wild bumble bee population.
A Jan. 12th press release issued by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is drawing worldwide attention. The latest coverage came from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Take Franklin's bumble bee. That's a bumble bee found only in a small stretch of southern Oregon and northern California. Robbin Thorp, a member of the Xerces Society, hasn't seen it for several years and fears it may be extinct.
You'll want to read the article on "Bumble Bees in Decline" on the Xerces Society Web site and look at the photos of the bumble bees that could be nearing extinction.
Two recent studies provide a direct link between diseases in commercial bumble bees and the health of wild bumble bees:
--Otterstatter, M.C., and J.D. Thomson. 2008. Does Pathogen Spillover from Commercially Reared Bumble Bees Threaten Wild Pollinators? PLoS One. Available online at http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0002771
--Colla, S.R., M.C. Otterstatter, R.J. Gegear, and J.D. Thomson. 2006. Plight of the Bumblebee: Pathogen Spillover from Commercial to Wild Populations. Biological Conservation 129: 461-467.
Otterstatter and Thomson note that wild bumble bees near greenhouses have higher pathogen loads (of Crithidia bombi and Nosema bombi) than bumble bees farther away from greenhouses.We're glad to see this kind of research under way and the proposed restrictions sent to the USDA. We need to protect our wild bumble bees.
Franklin's Bumble Bee