Quantcast

2018’s Extreme Weather Harmed UK Bumblebees

Animals
Pexels

A year of extreme weather partly linked to climate change took its toll on the UK's bumblebees.


A new report from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust found that, while some rare species did well in 2018, most of the country's species of bumblebee suffered in 2018 due to both freezing weather in February and March and a summer heat wave, The Press Association reported.

The data was based on a "BeeWalk" project in which citizen scientists walk through certain flower-rich habitats at least once a month from March to October and record the number of bees they see. In 2018, 482 people submitted data from 559 sites.

"Whilst it is great to see the four 'biggest species winners' from our latest BeeWalk data are rare bumblebees, it's concerning to see four of our seven commonest bumblebees have declined over the last nine years," Bumblebee Conservation Trust Science Manager Richard Comont said.

The bees were first harmed by the "Beast from the East" winter storm in late February and early March, which delayed the 2018 bumblebee season. Some scientists believe there is a link between the melting of Arctic sea ice due to climate change and the conditions that allow cold weather to sweep down into lower latitudes, as it did during the Beast from the East. A study published in 2018 found that warmer Arctic weather made cold winters in the Eastern U.S. and northern Europe more likely. However, the connection is not yet fully understood, as CarbonBrief explained at the time.

After the cold weather, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust found that most of the UK's 24 species of bumblebee took until July to recover and reach regular numbers. But then a summer heat wave and drought parched flowers, reducing the bees' food supply and causing their numbers to decline. Scientists calculated that climate change more than doubled the likelihood of Europe's 2018 heat wave.

The Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) had its worst year since 2012, which was marked by near constant rain, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust said in a press release. Other common garden bees that struggled in 2018 included the Garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum), the Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), the Heath bumblebee (Bombus jonellus) and the White-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum aggregate).

On the other hand, some rare species that emerge later in the spring and enjoy hot weather had a good year. They included the Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis), the Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum) and the Large Garden Ruderal bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus).

The Trust worried that the events of 2018 could have implications for the future health of Britain's bumblebees:

The impact of the 2018 heatwave has raised concerns about the number of bumblebee queens that made it into hibernation over the 2018 to 2019 winter. 2018 was the worst year for bumblebee abundance – the number of individuals per species – recorded by BeeWalk since 2012. This could have a potential knock on effect on populations in 2019. The likelihood of long heatwaves like 2018 becoming more frequent could cause problems for Britain's bumblebee populations in the longer term.

Bumblebee Conservation Trust CEO Gill Perkins had advice for what bee lovers could do to give struggling pollinators a hand.

"We all need to make sure our gardens, parks and greenspaces are bumblebee-friendly to stop today's common species becoming tomorrow's rarities," she said.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new report spotlights a U.N. estimate that at least 275 million people rely on healthy coral reefs. A sea turtle near the Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef is seen above. THE OCEAN AGENCY / XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY

By Jessica Corbett

In a new report about how the world's coral reefs face "the combined threats of climate change, pollution, and overfishing" — endangering the future of marine biodiversity — a London-based nonprofit calls for greater global efforts to end the climate crisis and ensure the survival of these vital underwater ecosystems.

Read More
Half of the extracted resources used were sand, clay, gravel and cement, seen above, for building, along with the other minerals that produce fertilizer. Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

The world is using up more and more resources and global recycling is falling. That's the grim takeaway from a new report by the Circle Economy think tank, which found that the world used up more than 110 billion tons, or 100.6 billion metric tons, of natural resources, as Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Read More
Sponsored

By Gero Rueter

Heating with coal, oil and natural gas accounts for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But that's something we can change, says Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passive House Institute in the western German city of Darmstadt.

Read More
Researchers estimate that 142,000 people died due to drug use in 2016. Markus Spiske / Unsplash

By George Citroner

  • Recent research finds that official government figures may be underestimating drug deaths by half.
  • Researchers estimate that 142,000 people died due to drug use in 2016.
  • Drug use decreases life expectancy after age 15 by 1.4 years for men and by just under 1 year for women, on average.

Government records may be severely underreporting how many Americans die from drug use, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University.

Read More
Water coolers in front of shut-off water fountains at Center School in Stow, MA on Sept. 4, 2019 after elevated levels of PFAS were found in the water. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In a new nationwide assessment of drinking water systems, the Environmental Working Group found that toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS are far more prevalent than previously thought.

Read More