A Quarter Of Europe’s Bumblebees, Vital To Agriculture, Face Extinction

Of the five most important insect pollinators of European crops, three are bumblebee species.

What are Bumblebees and Why Are They Important?

Often with yellow and black stripes and bigger than honeybees, bumblebees live in small nests of up to 200 and do not make honeycombs. Some bumblebees are commercially bred to pollinate tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in greenhouses.  Only queen bumblebees survive the winter.

Of the five most important insect pollinators of European crops, three are bumblebee species,” said the IUCN, which groups governments, scientists and conservation groups.

Honeybees, living in longer-lasting colonies of thousands of bees, make honeycombs largely to ensure that the insects have food to survive months with no nectar-making flowers.

What’s Happening to Them?

Almost a quarter of Europe’s bumblebees are at risk of extinction due to loss of habitats and climate change, threatening pollination of crops worth billions of dollars, a study showed on Wednesday.

Sixteen of 68 bumblebee species in Europe are at risk, the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said. It is preparing a global study of the bees, whose honeybee cousins are in steep decline because of disease.

Populations of the critically endangered Bombus cullumanus, now found only in France, have fallen by more than 80 percent in the past decade, apparently because of a reduction in the amount of meadows with clover, its favourite forage, the study added.

“Climate change, the intensification of agriculture and changes in agricultural land are the main threats” to bumblebees, said the report, the first Red List assessment of threats to bumblebees.

Read More at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/02/europe-bumblebees_n_5075547.html?ir=Taste&ref=topbar

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