by Sophie Gabreldar
Several Bumblebee species are in drastic decline across North America and Europe because of hotter and more frequent extremes in temperature. This decline is so rapid that is “consistent with a mass extinction.” Many species are expected to go extinct within a few decades.
You might be thinking: why should I care about the bees dying? Well in short, the disappearing bee population poses a huge threat to human survival. No other species is as important when it comes to producing fruits and vegetables.
Why are Bees Important?
Native bees (such as Bumblebees) pollinate plants like cherries, blueberries, and cranberries. In fact, settlers were the first to bring European honeybees to Canada. Honeybees pollinate almond and lemon trees, okra, papaya and watermelon plants. While honeybees do a lot, native bees are better and more efficient pollinators of native crops. Similarly, native bees pollinate an estimated 80 percent of all flowering plants in the world.
If they were to suddenly disappear, we may lose all the plants that bees pollinate, all the animals that need those plants and so on up the food chain. Our supermarkets would half the amount of fruits and vegetables. The loss of bees would result in a huge loss in biodiversity
How Climate Change Effect The Bees
A new study from the University of Ottawa found that over the course of a single human generation, the likelihood of a Bumblebee population surviving in a given place has declined by an average of over 30%. The predicted decline is consistent with a mass extinction. A mass extinction is when a large number of species go extinct in a short amount of time.
Climate change plays a large part in the bee’s extinction risk. Observed temperatures and precipitation have begun to exceed their observed tolerances. Researchers have created a new way to predict local extinctions for individual species; they focused on whether climate change is creating temperatures Bumblebees can’t handle.
Peter Soroye, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology at the University of Ottawa, Jeremy Kerr, professor at the University of Ottawa and head of the lab group Peter is in, along with Tim Newbold, research fellow at UCL (University College London), were the first to suggest that this extinction began decades ago.
Using data on 66 different Bumblebee species across North America and Europe that was collect between 1900-205, researchers were able to see how Bumblebee populations have changed by comparing where bees are now to where they used to be historically. “If declines continue at this pace, many of these species could vanish forever within a few decades,” Peter Soroye cautioned.
What Can We Do?
To reduce the impacts of climate change for the bees and all organisms, maintaining habitats that provide shelter from the heat is very important. As Dr. Kerr said, “Ultimately, we must address climate change itself and every action we take to reduce emissions will help. The sooner the better. It is in all our interests to do so, as well as in the interests of the species with whom we share the world.” Even small things such a planting flowers or avoiding using insecticides can help. One final thing to do is at all times, never kill a bee!