Bumblebees In Decline

by Katy - Bee Missionary February 04, 2022

Bumblebees In Decline

As we have blogged before, the honeybee is the super star in the world of bees and pollination. Bumblebees are humble and amazing pollinators, too, so let’s give them more recognition. It is well deserved, and they are struggling.

Ever more species are racing towards extinction almost daily, whether the news comes from the plant or animal kingdom.

Do you know that the bumblebee, a creature that humanity depends on for many edibles, is rapidly moving in the direction of extinction? There are 50 bumblebee species in North America, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Twelve of these species are listed as at-risk. Some have declined by nearly 90% in the last twenty years. That leaves little wiggle room for survival.

Compared to the challenges honeybees have faced, there is nowhere near the amount of coverage about this bumblebee plight. Sadly, people either don’t understand the implications, don't know, or don’t much care. There is just less interest over the downward trajectory of bumblebees. Several bumblebee species are now perched on the edge of extinction.

People have taken much more interest in the dangerous decline of honeybees, and rightly so. We love honeybees and making people aware of their challenges is a major focus for us. But why are bumblebees and their struggles less important? They are not.

So, we wish to raise humanity's consciousness about the problems the humble bumbler faces. Honeybees have been pulling back from the brink lately. If they can, so too can bumblebees. There are common causes to their endangerment, and when these beloved insects face several at the same time, it turns into a perfect storm—of disaster.

They are faced with such issues as monocultures, habitat loss, degradation of their natural wildflower fields, human progress in the form of mowing down fields to erect concrete structures and parking lots, pestilence, disease, pesticides like the deadly nerve-damaging neonicotinoids, climate changes, and enemy insects, along with other hazards.

This 4:24-minute video by Severson Dells Nature Center looks at the decline of bumblebees: 

 

 

If honeybees can bounce back from all that—and they are in the process of doing so—then the bumblebee can as well.

The phenomenon now known as colony collapse disorder that caused domesticated honeybees to start dying off in vast numbers sparked a massive public awareness campaign, thankfully. Not only do they pollinate much of our food, but they give humanity the gift of the gods known as honey.

Nowadays, it is easy to find facts, figures, and statistics in general, about the wellbeing of the honeybee. If ever there is a dip in their wellness, numbers, or progress, everyone can know about it with ease.

Bumblebees can suffer equal setbacks, but they get little press. Is it because we think we need nothing from them, that we have nothing to lose if we lose them? They are loners, compared to the very social honeybee. They like to be left to their own devices in their fields with their flowers.

Bumblebees are the main pollinators of potatoes, a staple food for millions of people around the world. They are equally as valuable as pollinators of blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cranberries, eggplants, and peppers. Bumblebees enjoy private gardens, and the herbs and flowers that grow there, like comfrey, honeysuckle, and lavender.

We depend on all bees, of which there are 4,000 species of wild bees, to pollinate our food as well as wild plants around the globe. Yet we know little about their needs, nor do we do much to ensure that their needs are met.

How much governmental caring for honeybees is based on the fact they represent a multi-billion dollar a year business that feeds global economies? Do we ever protect species that have no monetary or other value to us, just because it is their right to exist, and maybe we are responsible for the hardships they endure? What do we really know, as humans, and do we have the right to make decisions that lead to the extinction of other creatures? It is their planet as much as ours.

Our hope is that this blog post raises awareness about things like the human relationship to nature, the environment, and the cause and effect our actions have on all living things, based on our collective and personal decisions.

Drilling down further, the point of this blog post is to awaken you to the plight of bumblebees. What is driving their decline? It may be different causes in different places, that should be addressed in those specific areas by the local inhabitants. We must reengage with nature if we hope nature will support us in return, but even better is to engage with nature because we love this planet and her creatures. Disease, pesticide poison, habitat loss—all these things we can influence. So, let’s get started. If we stop using deadly pesticides the wild bees will return.

To protect threatened bumblebee species, placing them on the Endangered Species List might be a good idea, as people do pay attention to it. The problem is that it can be a woefully slow process, in a situation where time is the enemy.  The Fish and Wildlife Service can fall drastically behind. A petition filed in 2015 to list the western bumblebee is still “under review” six years later.

If bumblebee populations continue to dwindle, we as a species will suffer. Let’s stand for the bumblebee, a truly unique pollinator that deserves our support.

 

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Katy - Bee Missionary
Katy - Bee Missionary

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