New scientific research suggests that the likelihood of a bumblebee population surviving anywhere has declined by 30% over the course of a single human generation. The scientists warned that the rates of decline appear to be “consistent with a mass extinction”.
In the study, the researchers analysed the migratory patterns of 66 bumblebee species across North America and Europe over a 115-year period. They found that as temperature rises, the bumblebees are emigrating from places that have become too warm, and have had extreme weather events too frequently for their survival, to places that used to be too cold for their survival. However, the rate at which places are becoming uninhabitable for bumblebees still far outstrips the rate at which places are becoming inhabitable for bumblebees – contributing to the decline of the bumblebee population.
Not Only Climate Change
Jamie Strange, chair of the entomology department at Ohio State University, cautioned against being too fixated on climate change and neglecting other stressors causing the bumblebees’ decline – such as toxic pesticides, destruction of habitat for development, conversion of wildlands into agriculture, the spread of pathogens, and the release of non-native bees for commercial pollination. Strange stressed that all these factors are equally important and should be addressed holistically to reverse the bumblebees’ course.
What Are the Ramifications?
Although bumblebees do not produce as much honey as honeybees do, their extinction would still be devastating to life as we know it today. As bumblebees are necessary for many flowering plants to reproduce, the decline of bumblebees can have cascading ecological effects that may collectively cause biodiversity loss. Perhaps, the loss of tomatoes, squash, and berries would be more visceral for us.