Plight Of The Bumblebee

The American Bumblebee is a critically endangered species.  Many bumblebee species are rapidly declining, even though they are important pollinators needed to grow crops including apples, tomatoes, pumpkins, blueberries and legumes, as well as countless types of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers.  This species is at risk of extinction and it’s currently not protected in any way despite the drastic decline.  Bumblebees pollinate many plants and crops and they’re particularly effective because they “buzz-pollinate”, vibrating their wings fast to release lots of pollen.  To extract the pollen necessary for fertilization, the blossom needs to be shaken vigorously, and bumblebees are experts at vibrating the flowers to shake out the pollen.  Their large size means that they can fly in weather that keeps honeybees, which pollinate some of the same plants, in their hives.  Honeybees stay in their hives on rainy days and also when the temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  Many scientists are focused on the decline of honey bees, but relatively few study bumblebees.

High losses are alarming because bumblebees are the most ecologically dominant and economically valuable group of wild pollinators.  Human-induced drivers of bee declines include climate change, land degradation, and pesticide exposure.  Natural threats also lurk and are reminiscent of the 1956 classic horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers coming from parasites known as conopid flies.  Conopids aggressively intercept foraging bumblebees and insert their eggs inside the bees’ abdomen, which becomes a bizarre nightmare for the bumblebee as it internally consumed.

Research found the American bumblebee is on the decline in parts of the United States and the American bumblebee is also declining in Canada, as recent stats show that they have decreased by 70% from historical rates.  Scientists don’t yet know exactly what is causing the bee population to decline.  Bumblebees, like the closely-related honey bees, can activate their hive mates to forage for nectar.  However, little is known about pollen foraging activation and colony-level responses of how a bumblebee colony regulates pollen collection.  I always wondered if bees buzz because they are orgulous, showing off to the others how much nectar they have collected.

The bumblebee is familiar to everyone, being large, plump, and fuzzy, having black and yellow stripes.  They have relatively small wings when compared to their large bodies, making one wonder at their ability to fly.  To overcome this, the wings move in a complicated figure-eight pattern that provides more lift because of re-used airflow.  The amiable, jolly bumblebee is in a death spiral now, although its plight has not seeped into the public’s consciousness yet and this must not continue being ignored.  An insect Armageddon is under way, which is the result of a multiple whammy of environmental impacts including pollution, habitat changes, overuse of pesticides, and global warming.  The decline of our creepy crawlers is unsettling as sometimes things slip away so gradually that you don’t realize they’ve disappeared.  Even the jumping June bugs seem to be disappearing, maybe because there aren’t enough natural areas for them to thrive in or because we’ve sprayed them to near extinction.

Written for Sheryl’s Daily Word Prompt – Activation, for the Daily Spur prompt – Horror, for FOWC with Fandango – Stats, for July Monthly Writing Prompts – Jumping June bugs, for Ragtag Community – Orgulous, for GC and SueW Weekly Word Prompt – Rainy days and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Jolly.

18 thoughts on “Plight Of The Bumblebee

  1. Now that you mention it, I rarely see bumblebees or Junebugs anymore 😦 This area is crawling/flying with zillions of insects, but not them. We are destroying paradise.

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  2. Bumblebees are on the decline in the U.K. too, but I’ve seen many many in our garden this year. Over here it’s illegal to use certain pesticides near bees and frowned upon to use chemicals in our domestic gardens. Thank you, Jim for sharing this interesting article and joining our Weekly Prompts word prompt again.

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    1. That is good news that you are seeing more bumblebees as they are very important to crops and plants. It is my pleasure to be in your Weekly Prompts, as I always find them interesting.

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  3. Forgot to say… There is also a wildlife telephone number to contact if bees in large numbers are found dead. The cause of death will be investigated by the scientists.

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