Up to now there has been little accurate information about the number of bee species and their patterns across the globe, especially in developing countries where access to public records has been slim.
A global team of researchers from the USA, Singapore and China have undertaken a study to change this, and to establish a baseline to understand species richness and geographic patterns. Cross-referencing a variety of datasets has produced a much clearer picture of how many bee species are found in different areas around the world.
Creating the first modern map of bee species represented globally, researchers have taken an important step toward bee conservation. Scientists compared data about the occurrence of individual bee species with the massive checklist of over 20,000 bee species complied by Dr. Ascher that can be found at the biodiversity portal DiscoverLife.org. There are also over 5.8 million public bee occurrence records. The study was published in the journal Current Biology and establishes an important baseline for future studies on bees and other understudied invertebrates. Eventually it will help humans to help bees in many ways.
This 3:46-minute video by CNNT refers to this study:
The study's first author and postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Zoology at Chinese Academy of Sciences, Michael C. Orr, considers this project an important first step towards global bee conservation.
According to co-lead author, Dr. John Ascher, a researcher at the National University of Singapore, the USA has the highest number of bee species, and there are also vast areas in Africa and the Middle East with much undiscovered diversity.
Co-lead author Dr. Alice Hughes, a researcher in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, informs us that many crops in developing countries rely on native bee species, not the honeybee.
They have described global patterns of bee diversity that indicate there are more bee species in the northern hemisphere than the southern hemisphere, and more bees are found in temperate, dry desert and arid environments than in the humid tropics, jungles and forested areas which provide less food sources for bees than flowering plants closer to the earth. Also, higher numbers of bee species are found away from the north and south poles, and fewer near the equator.
In spite of the fact that bees are of critical importance worldwide as pollinators, according to Rachael Winfree, professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University, there has never been a comprehensive central data source about where the different bees of the world are found.
Many bee species are dying for a number of reasons, including habitat loss, wildflower scarcity, climate change, monocultures and pesticide poisoning. Now that there is a clear analysis of the numbers and patterns of bee species and how they are distributed around the different parts of the world, hopefully there will be positive gains in the conservation of bees, thanks to the work of these experts.
To view the global map of bee species, please go here.
Happy weekend and bee safe!