Quantcast

Half of Michigan's Bumblebee Species in Decline, One Extinct

Animals
Bumblebee on goldenrod. Jim Hudgins / USFWS

Honeybees get a lot of attention for their worrisome decline, but many species of bumblebees—which are key pollinators—are also in trouble.

In Michigan, half of its bumblebee species have declined by 50 percent or more, Michigan Radio reported.


"Of those twelve species, about half of them have declined and the other half are stable," Thomas Wood, a post-doctoral research associate at Michigan State University, told the radio station.

Of the six species that have declined, their numbers dropped by more than 50 percent, Wood added. One species, the rusty patched bumblebee, has even gone extinct in Michigan.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified the rusty patched bumblebee as an endangered species, the first bumblebee in the country and the first wild bee of any kind in the continental U.S. to receive Endangered Species Act protection.

The bee, identified by its reddish abdomen, was once common and abundant across 28 states from Connecticut to South Dakota, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces, but its population plummeted by 87 percent since the late 1990s.

There are many factors tied to Michigan's disappearing bumblebees, Michigan Radio reported, including loss of flowers, destruction of prairie and wooded areas that provide habitat for insects, as well as a controversial class of insecticides called neonicotinoids that have been linked to bee deaths around the world.

Neonicotinoids are "acutely toxic to bees and they're used in agriculture. Almost all the corn that's planted in Michigan, and in the Midwest more generally, is treated with these insecticides," Wood explained.

The bumblebee is also impacted by climate change. One 2015 study found that the southern range of North American and European species compressed as the planet heats up.

Because of their big, fluffy bodies and unique buzz pollination abilities (where their wing muscles vibrate a flower to release pollen), bumblebees can be more efficient than honeybees in pollinating a variety of fruit and vegetable crops.

"Bumblebees are especially good pollinators; even plants that can self-pollinate produce more and bigger fruit when pollinated by bumblebees," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. "Each year, insects, mostly bees, provide pollination services valued at an estimated $3 billion in the United States."

The good news is we can help the humble bumblebee's survival. The National Wildlife Federation provides several tips in this blog post, including planting native plants and eliminating the use of pesticides.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Doctors report that only 1 in 4 children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Ronnie Kaufman / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Dan Gray

Pediatricians are being urged to start writing "exercise prescriptions" for the children they see in their office.

Read More
A First Nations protester walks in front of a train blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ontario, Canada on Feb. 21, 2020. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

An indigenous rail blockade that snarled train travel in Canada for more than two weeks came to an end Monday when police moved in to clear protesters acting in solidarity with another indigenous community in British Columbia (B.C.), which is fighting to keep a natural gas pipeline off its land.

Read More
Sponsored
A rainbow snake, a rare reptile spotted in a Florida county for the first time in more than 50 years, seen here on July 5, 2013. Kevin Enge / FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / Flickr

A Florida hiker recently stumbled across a slithering surprise — a rare snake that hadn't been spotted in the area for more than 50 years.

Read More
We need our government to do everything it can to stop PFAS contamination and exposure from wreaking havoc in communities across the country. LuAnn Hun / Unsplash

By Genna Reed

The EPA announced last week that it is issuing a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment to set an enforceable drinking water standard to two of the most common and well-studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.

This decision is based on three criteria:

  1. PFOA and PFOS have an adverse effect on public health
  2. PFOA and PFOS occur in drinking water often enough and at levels of public health concern;
  3. regulation of PFOA and PFOS is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk to those served by public water systems.
Read More
Charging EVs in Stockholm: But where does a dead battery go? Ranjithsiji / Wikimedia Commons

By Kieran Cooke

Driving an electric-powered vehicle (EV) rather than one reliant on fossil fuels is a key way to tackle climate change and improve air quality — but it does leave the old batteries behind as a nasty residue.

Read More