Friday, February 18, 2011

Key Pollinators Disappearing - Bad News for Plants

Bumblebee populations in the U.S. have been vanishing over the past few decades. The bees are an important part of our ecosystem. Along with pollinating the beautiful flowers of the world, bees play a major role in pollinating our crops. The bumblebee is an especially good pollinator because since it is larger in size it can handle and pollinate in more harsh weather than other bees (ex: honeybee). Bumblebees also "buzz-pollinate" where thay can rapidly vibrate and release more pollen.

Many of the species previously common in certain areas are not present anymore. This caused a survey team to go out and collect 16, 788 bumblebees to study 4 out of nearly 50 species local to the U.S. The results were devastating. One of the species' population had appeared to diminish by 96%! The ranges of the four species had shrunk from 23-87%

What ever could be the cause for this detrimental loss? It is thought that things such as agricultural damage where farmers have increased filed areas could be the explanation. From those collected it seems that a parasite has been doing most of the damage. In those populations diminishing, the parasite had an infection rate of 37%. The four species studied were closely related so they could be genetically susceptible to harm from the parasite. From here all that can be done is further studying to narrow down the causes for the losses and to try to curb the bumblebee populations in an upward direction.



  1. I guess it has been a long time since I was last bite by a bee!...I'm ok with that part, but I fear what might happen with less bees. It seems like bees don't have that big of a part in the world, but I'm sure we would see a significant change in the world if the bee population continues to lower. I hope this is only a temporary problem.

  2. This is an issue of concern as it affects the seed set of many plant species, and a number of fruit crops are also dependent on pollination to get fruit set. As with many things, it looks like there may be several underlying causes.