Bumblebee populations in North America and Europe have plummeted, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science. The number of areas populated by bumblebees has fallen 46 percent in North America and 17 percent in Europe. The loss of bumblebee populations is alarming because they play a central role in pollinating many plants, including key crops such as tomatoes and cranberries.
“Unlike honeybees in North America, which have been brought over from Europe and kept in these colonies, bumblebees are native and evolved with these plants," said Peter Soroye, a researcher at the University of Ottawa and one of the study’s authors. "So when it comes to these natural landscapes, bumblebees are pretty irreplaceable.”
The study, which Soroye conducted with colleagues from the University of Ottawa and University College London, compared the observed locations for 66 species of bumblebees between 1901 and 1974 with places where they could be found between 2000 and 2014. They found that nearly half of all regions in North America where bumblebees had been recorded in the earlier period no longer registered bees in the later period.
It’s unclear whether the bees might recover. Franklin’s bumblebee is a species once found in a narrow region where California and Oregon meet. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed an endangered-species listing for the bee but noted that the listing may not actually happen because it’s unclear whether there are any bees left to protect.
Source: The Washington Post, Feb 6, 2020