Although Different Than Honeybees, Bumblebees Are Important Pollinators

The Associated Press reported yesterday that, “Hundreds of citizen scientists have begun buzzing through locations across the Pacific Northwest seeking a better understanding about nearly 30 bumblebee species.

Bumblebees, experts say, are important pollinators for both wild and agricultural plants, but some species have disappeared from places where they were once common, possibly because of the same factors that have been killing honeybees.

“‘It’s really important for us as humans to study these species systems for animals that are the little guys that make the world go around,’ said Ann Potter of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, one of the entities in three states — Oregon and Idaho are the others — participating in the three-year Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas project.”

The AP article noted that, “Researchers hope to accumulate enough information to recommend ways to conserve bumblebees and their habitat.”

The article explained that, “Bumblebees, unlike honeybees, don’t overwinter in a hive. Bumblebees build nests, typically in holes in the ground, and generally only number a few hundred individuals by the time fall arrives. Any honey they produce they consume.

“With the arrival of winter, all bumblebees die except a few fertilized queen bees that in the spring head out alone to start a new nest and produce worker bees, beginning the cycle over.”

Honeybees are imports from Europe brought in as agricultural workers to pollinate crops. Native bumblebees also help pollinate crops. But when it comes to native North American plants and some crops, the more robust bumblebee with its ability to ‘buzz’ pollinate by grabbing onto an entire flower and shaking the pollen loose is for some plant species the only insect up to the task,” the AP article said.

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