Bumblebees are fuzzy insects with short stubby wings. They are bigger than honeybees but produce less honey. Their major service for the eco-system is pollination.
Many species of bumblebees are listed under endangered species. Extinction of bumblebees would hinder pollination of plants. Agreed, that there are other pollinators to provide the service. But not all are efficient pollinators like the bumblebee.
Bumblebees are Efficient Pollinators
Bumblebees have a body designed to help in buzz pollination. Their wings beat 130 times/sec according to National Wildlife Federation. The beating results in vibration of a flower to release pollen. Their hairy body helps in carrying a larger amount of pollen grains.
In a study, 5 colonies of bumblebees per hectare of lowbush blueberry, produced yields equal to using 7.5 honey bee colonies per hectare. This proves that the bumblebees are efficient pollinators. Biologists have observed steep declines of bumble species over the last few decades.
“If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” – Albert Einstein.
It’s time we consider Albert Einstein’s quote seriously.
Many researchers still think that decline in bumblebee population will not do much harm. Well, the results of a recent study by researchers of the University of Virginia might prove them wrong. According to the study, smaller bees are not good substitutes for our bumblebees. They transfer less pollen, thereby providing little benefit to plants.
During the study, the researchers observed that few small bees were just stealing the pollen. The smaller bees were attracted to more male flowers whereas our bumblebees were attracted to more female flowers. This means the bumblebees carried pollen grains to many female flowers.
The farmers are advised by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural Sciences to keep honey bees with bumblebees. This results in better pollination of blueberry crops and ensures higher yields.
Agriculture Practices Have Disturbed the Bumblebee Population.
Rapid changes in farming have sounded the death knell for many of our 21 species of bumblebees. The land use patterns over decades have disturbed the bees habitat. Pulling out weeds and decline in wildflowers has declined their food source.
Spring is a busy time for bumblebee queens. After a long winter hibernation queen bumblebee starts working. Their work includes making nests, laying eggs, and keeping their larvae warm. It’s physiologically demanding and quite difficult. The solitary work of the queen alone affects the survival of almost 400 bumblebees.
In a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers at the University of California, Riverside found that environmental threats are piling onto the stress faced by nest-building bumblebee queens.
The queens build their nests below the soil. Use of pesticides has affected the queen’s ability to survive. Killing a bumblebee queen is equal to killing 400 efficient pollinators.
If only our agriculture practices were more sustainable. If only we worked in harmony with nature, providing pesticide-free habitats. We could save our natural pollinators and not think about commercial pollination industry.
Idaho’s Citizens are Helping To Conserve Bumblebees.
Biologists have been trying to come up with methods to conserve bees. But the distribution of bees around the state cannot be found easily. So they have asked the citizens for help.
Beekeeping helps to conserve bees but not all know the art of beekeeping.
Idaho, USA has asked citizens to help with conservation. The citizens are asked to click photos of the bees they find and upload it in an app “Bumblebee Watch”. The scientists believe that this would help to map the bumblebee population in Idaho.
This would be the first step towards conservation and this is a difficult task if done alone. Idaho has taken a step forward to protect and spread awareness about bees. Hope many become concerned about the decline in bee population.
Bumblebee species have fallen off by as much as 80%. It is important that researchers come up with more sustainable methods to protect these species.