Bumblebees are Now Officially Endangered: Here Are 5 Ways You Can Help Bring Them Back

March 7, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Bumblebees don’t make honey, but they are the primary pollinator for many of the foods we eat, and the ONLY pollinator for some crops like tomatoes, blueberries and kiwis.

Bumblebee populations are plummeting in the United States.

The first of 46 bumblebee species was officially listed as “endangered” recently, and the other 45 aren’t far behind.

Neaely 90% of rusty patched bumblebees have disappeared in 20 years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

And reports from multiple states show that  the populations of other bumblebee species are plummeting as well.

For example, more than half the bumblebee species in Michigan have declined by 50 percent or more in the last 20 years, according to a report released last month.

A recent study shows more than half the bumblebee species in Vermont have disappeared or are in serious decline in the last hundred years.

Over a quarter of all bumble bee species indigenous to the U.S. and Canada are at risk of extinction, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

If something’s not done soon, humans are in for a world of trouble, as bumblebees are the chief pollinator for many of the crops we eat.

“Bumblebees are among the most important pollinators of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and clover, and almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Even in crops that can be self-pollinated, bumblebees help produce more and bigger fruits.

Bumblebees specialize in an unusual form of pollination known as “buzz pollination,” where the bee hangs from the flower and vibrates its flight muscles rapidly, shaking loose pollen held tightly by the flower.

Blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes and kiwis are just a few examples of many plant species that require this form of pollination.

Loss of habitat (aka conversion of prairie into farmland) and insecticides are thought to be the primary causes of the great bee disappearing act.

With that in mind, here are 5 ways you can help:

1. Eliminate pesticides in your garden. Especially a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids known to kill bees.

2. Outlaw neonicotinoids. They’ve been outlawed in Europe. Call your congressman or woman and tell them to support the Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2017.

3. Plant native flowers. The Xeres Society provides a list of hundreds of native flowers that are of special value to bumblebees.

4. Stop mowing your lawn. Or at least part of it. Mowing destroys bumble-bee nests sites, so let part of your yard go back to nature. When you do mow, the National Wildlife Federation says, wait til late April or May and leave lawn clippings in an out-of-the-way pile; some bumble bee species will nest there.

5. Give them a place to nest. Most bumble bees nest underground in holes made by larger animals, while others nest aboveground in abandoned bird nests, grass tussocks or cavities such as hollow logs or spaces beneath rocks. In gardens, they may also use compost piles or unoccupied birdhouses.

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