A ‘Climate Vise’ is Squeezing Bumble Bees’ Range

Brian Kahn, Climate Central

If you’ve hiked through a meadow in bloom in Europe or North America, you’ve probably heard the buzz and seen the lazy meanderings of bumble bees from flower to flower. Yet what was once a common sight on the southern end of their range is becoming rare or nonexistent.

According to new research published in the journal Science, climate change could be intimately tied with the plight of the prolific pollinator. But unlike other species that are shifting northward in response to warming temperatures, the majority of bumble bees species included in the new study are failing to expand their range. Because they can occupy a niche as early and late season pollinators, farmers, forests and flowers could all suffer from their disappearance.

“They’ve run up against a wall,” Jeremy Kerr, a biologist at the University of Ottawa, said. “They just aren’t colonizing new areas and finding new locations. Bumblebees are caught in a climate vise.”

Kerr led the new research, which analyzed a massive dataset of 423,000 observations of bumble bees across North America and Europe stretching back to the start of the 20th century. The results show that despite 4.5°F of warming that has made the northern end of their range more habitable, bees are failing to follow the heat even as they are disappearing on the southern fringes at an alarming clip.

Read more at ClimateCentral.org

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