Research suggests genetic factors and parasites are factors
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The buzzing of bumblebees during summer is a comforting sound, but it’s also an economic factor in multibillion dollar tomato and berry crops, as the insects intentionally use those vibrations to shake loose pollen. Their robust size and long tongues also help them pollinate efficiently, but recent studies have documented an alarming decline in bumblebee populations in North America and the U.S.
Altogether, bees pollinate about 90 percent of the world’s commercial plants, so the decline has spurred environmental and economic concerns, along with more studies, and the results are not good. Most research is pointing toward a significant loss, possibly due to the introduction of a tiny parasite that’s common in Europe. In one of the most significant research efforts, scientists at the University of Illinois said populations of four common species of bumblebees have dropped by 96 percent in recent decades.
Pesticide use and Ggenetic factors may also be playing a role, as reduced gene flow between fragmented populations may be making the bees more susceptible to the parasites.
More research has been done in Europe, and those studies suggest that climate may also be a factor, as the biggest declines are being detected near the edge of bumblebee ranges. But North American research shows similar declines in some of the previously most abundant species that occupied broad climatic ranges.
Here’s the study: