Climate Change and the Decline of Bumblebees

Bumblebees are a huge part of our day to day lives – but did you know there is an ominous connection between climate change and the decline of bumblebees?


You have certainly heard a great deal recently about and how people are fighting to have their voices heard and demanding a better future for all. But do you know how climate change is impacting ? Rainfall changes and temperature shifts are pushing bumblebees beyond their limit (ecologically-speaking). According to authors of a climate change focused piece in Science, there are declines being seen across 66 species of bumblebees.

In places such as Spain and Mexico, and other warm parts of the northern hemisphere, climate change is having a major impact on bumblebees. The decline due to climate change will have unknown consequences, according to authors of this alarming piece on climate change and bumblebees.

Unfortunately, bumblebees are threatened by habitat loss and pesticide exposure, and quick global warming resulting from climate change could be the end of certain species.

Did you know there are over 250 species of bumblebees found primarily in the northern hemisphere’s higher altitudes? Across the globe, on the other hand, there are 20,000 bee species. Bumblebees are vulnerable to temperature extremes, as per bee biologist Prof Dave Goulson.

Climate Change is Hurting Bumblebees

Researchers studying how climate change affects bumblebees put together data from across Europe and North America. More than half a million observations of 66 species of bumblebees is contained in this dataset, which goes back over a century. University of Ottawa’s Peter Soroye, study author and PhD student, as well as biologist Prof Jeremy Kerr, explained that the data can be used to determine where bumblebees used to be and where they can be found in the present day. They tracked places where the bumblebees have been over 100 years of climate change, for example. They were able to distinguish a difference between effects of habitat changes versus climate change.

From 1901 to 1974 to the period of 2000-2014, the chance of a bumblebee inhabiting a specified area in North America has decreased by 47 percent. To put it in a nutshell, bumblebees are being pushed beyond their temperature limits, and this can be linked to climate change. Major declines in terms of bumblebee populations are occurring at warming southern ecological margins and there are less compensating population developments in northern margins – therefore, both continents are experiencing declines.

In accordance with environmental change biologist from University College London, there is expected to be a rapid decline of UK bumblebees as climate change accelerates over the next decades.

A Decline in Bumblebees Due to Climate Change Will Have Huge Consequences

As per the research paper mentioned, a decline in bumblebees could have indefinite consequences for the provision of certain ecosystem services, for instance, pollination. If climate change pushes bumblebees to extinction, imagine what would happen to fruits and vegetables such as berries, tomatoes and squash. Climate change has apparently played a role already in terms of causing bumblebee population declines, specifically at the southern areas of their ranges. Exposure to pesticides and habitat loss are other issues faced by bumblebees – combine this with climate change causing warmer temperatures, and it could be the final straw.

Can Persist Despite Climate Change?

There is some good news. We still have time to make a difference when it comes to climate change. The future of the bumblebee does not have to be dire or nonexistent – we can intervene to save them. According to Kerr and Soroye, there has been success in determining spots where people must intervene and help bumblebees and we can see where they are persisting regardless of climate change.

Can We Combat the Impacts of Climate Change?

This particular study did not explore how bumblebees could be kept safe, however, there has been research indicating that adding flowers which are otherwise fed on by bumblebees into urban and rural areas could help with regard to conservation. It might not be the key to saving them, but it could make a difference.

Climate change does, in fact, pose a risk to bumblebees and of course to other insects. It is not something that we should or can afford to ignore. Think about how the decline of bumblebees would impact your life, and consider what you can do to make a difference when it comes to climate change.



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