Bee-pocalypse Redux: Bumblebee Population Drops by Up to 90% in U.S.

bumblebee

The planet's honey bee population has dropped precipitously over the past decade, and nobody is entirely sure why (though we have a sneaking suspicion that Bayer's bee-toxic pesticides have something to do with it). It's bad news for the one-third of American agriculture that relies on bee pollination. And it gets worse: this week, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published a study claiming that the population of four bumblebee species has dropped by up to 90 percent in the U.S. over the past 20 years.

The culprits, researchers speculate, are a lack of genetic diversity among eight bumble bee species and a bee pathogen called nosema bombi. The problem with the nosema bombi theory is that the parasite is common in dwindling populations of bumble bee species and not in stable populations—meaning nosema bombi infection could be associated with declining populations without being causative.

The conclusion of the study: "Future research on the complex interactions of habitat fragmentation, loss of floral and nesting resources, disease, and climate is needed to identify the major factors that lead to decline in bumble bee biodiversity." Researchers don't really have a clue, in other words, what to pinpoint the decline of the bumblebee population on. But they had better figure it out soon—bumblebees pollinate tomatoes, berries, and greenhouse vegetables and they make honey to feed other bee colonies.

May we suggest investigating some of the pesticides that have been proven to be toxic to honeybees?

Related: 

Beekeeper Who Leaked EPA Documents: "I Don't Think We Can Survive This Winter"

Timeline of a Bee Massacre: EPA Still Allowing Hive-Killing Pesticide

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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