We provide identification keys for both males and females, photographs of the common colour patterns, and distribution maps for all species.
Gardening for Bumblebees
We describe variation in local species richness and abundance, and list the food plants used by bumblebees in North China. The most abundant 10 bumblebee species are: B. Bumblebees are distributed widely within North China, from low elevations near the edge of the North-China plain to high elevations at the edge of the east Qinghai-Tibetan plateau m.
The highest species richness is found in meadows of the high elevation east Qinghai-Tibetan plateau and in forests of the Qilianshan mountains in southwestern Gansu. The food plant species recorded here belong to 49 families, showing that bumblebees play an important role in interconnecting agricultural and natural ecosystems in North China. So many entomologists and conservationists see protecting the rusty-patched bumblebee not as a fight for one species, but the beginning of a much larger battle to rescue all pollinators.
Drawing a protection plan like this has never been tried before, and it presents several novel problems. Right now, the most perplexing is why—if Nosema bombi is to blame for the decline of the rusty-patched bumblebee and its close relatives—did it suddenly became so lethal? Much of that is done by honeybees, which is why most of the news and panic about the massive bee losses has focused on European honeybees that are not indigenous to the U.
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Bumblebees do not make honey. The some 50 American species mostly pollinate wildflowers, as does the rusty-patched bumblebee. All of this allows them to live in higher altitude alpine environments, which makes them critical to the plants and animals that live there. Bumblebees are also distinct in that each year nearly their entire colony, comprised of hundreds of bumblebees, dies.
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In the early spring a queen emerges from her hibernation hole dug beneath a few centimeters of soft soil and searches for an unused rodent den, a dead tree, even a heap of grass clippings to begin her colony. To build it she gathers pollen and creates waxen pots laden with eggs.
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The males will leave the colony in search of other queens, never to return, and when winter comes again every bumblebee but the queens die. And with overstuffed fungi-infected drones too fat from spores to mate, it has thrown the rusty-patched bumblebee into near-extinction, along with several closely related species. Honeybees in America have been commercially grown practically since European colonists brought them across the Atlantic Ocean. Twenty years ago the pollination industry exported thousands of Eastern bumblebee queens to raise in Europe, then imported them back to farms and greenhouses all over the U.
An entomologist at the University of California, Davis, Robbin Thorp, as well as Sydney Cameron, at the University of Illinois, noticed this commercialization timeline matched suspiciously close to the decline of several bumblebees. Many scientists thought the rise of neonicotinoid pesticides , which occurred around the same time, were to blame.
But if pesticides were the only cause, Cameron said, all bumblebees and honeybees would likely experience similar devastation. So working off the Nosema bombi hypothesis, Cameron examined eight bumblebee species, taking samples from museums reaching years back.
She found that four of the tested species showed declines of up to 96 percent in just the past two decades, and, while a similar strain of the fungus had always been present, the four worst hit species had low genetic diversity. These bees had likely never been exposed to such high concentrations of Nosema bombi.
When bumblebee commercialization took off in the s, breeders could have unknowingly exposed queens plucked from the U. Raised so closely together, the bumblebees basted in the parasite, became super-carriers, or perhaps by dint of so many generations born under the same roof the pathogen altered its genetic make up, becoming more deadly, especially to certain species. When breeders shipped the colonies to the U.
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If true, what this means for a bumblebee protection plan varies. The most proven policies would include plans that focus on making bee habitat healthy. This includes growing flowers and plant species the bumblebees feed upon, because so much of the land nowadays has been developed, the wildflowers cleared, often to make way for monoculture farmland. The strategy dates back to the development of neonicotinoids in the s, which were pushed by the pesticide industry as an all-encompassing pest killer safe for mammals and birds.
Field Guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain & Ireland
Neonicotinoids are indeed safer for mammals and birds, but not necessarily insects. Europe and Canada have already limited their use, but regulation has not come to the U. But pollinator decline is not just a rural, or corporate problem. Per-acre, more pesticides are found in the suburbs.
They end up overspraying.
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