Endangered Sunday: North American Bumble Bee

A North American native Bumble Bee on a flower

endangered Bumble Bee by hobit&gollum, on Flickr

Extra: Some debunking of urban myths about bees.

I’ve never seen a Bumble Bee in nature. I’ve seen plenty of imported European honey bees (some of them in the wild), and plenty of Australian native bees (which are mostly solitary, so no hives for them – our few social species are stingless, which is nice).

But we don’t have Bumble Bees here, so I’ve missed out (although apparently there are some that were introduced to Tasmania and have spread widely there, but they’re making every effort that they don’t pass on to the mainland because of the negative impact they have had on native species, so perhaps I’ll need to make another trip). They do look rather jolly compared to the more streamlined bees to which I am accustomed.

But more and more species of bee are becoming endangered as their habitats are built over or mined. Then there’s the loss of whole populations of wild bumble bees that can be traced back to a fungal infection in captive populations that spread to those in the wild. Those wild pollinators are agriculturally significant – if their decline continues our historical agricultural practices may be under great threat. Commercially kept honeybees are also dying off in alarming numbers – Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) depopulates over 30% of beekeepers’ hives every year in the USA alone.  Scientists still don’t know the cause of CCD.

At least 1/3 of our food supply relies on pollinators. If the bees die out, how long until we starve?



Categories: environment, Science

3 replies

  1. They’re common in New Zealand, all the more so since the varroa bee mite started killing off honey bees (some wretched beekeeper flouted the law and imported queens from overseas, bringing the mite with them). And by chance, on New Zealand Sciblogs today, there is a lovely post, with pictures, about spring and bumblebees.
    Sunday Spinelessness – Harbingers of spring

    • Those are some fantastic photos Deborah – thanks!
      Re the wretched beekeeper – it rather relates back to the discussion we were having on another thread about the tragedy of the commons due to people thinking that the rules are only for other selfish/unruly/careless people, and that they don’t really apply to careful/decent/hardworking folk like them. Yeah.

  2. We get tons of them on our little patch in Virginia, and they are, in fact, very sweet, unassuming, unaggressive little things. The bee and butterfly population is one of the reasons why we let great swaths of wildflowers grow and don’t mow them (including thistles, which, this time of year -US Autumn – are the main flower, and they are hungrily feeding). We also encourage Luna moths, which are also getting scarcer.
    We also get carpenter bees and mason bees, who look the same as bumble bees, but burrow into wood and mortar to make little solitary nests. They’re all valuable pollinators.

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