For the first time, a bee species native to the continental United States has been classified as “endangered.”
The bee in peril is the rusty patched bumble bee (bombus affinis), whose population has declined almost 90 percent over the past two decades. The “endangered” designation means that the species “is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”
I have blogged about declining bee populations around the world. Bees are critical for the pollination of numerous plants, including food crops and fruits. The rusty patched bumble bee is associated with important crops such as tomatoes, cranberries and peppers.
Scientists are unsure what’s killing off our bees, but possibilities include disease, pesticides, habitat loss and climate change.
One theory is that an exotic strain of Nosema bombi (a fungal pathogen) is a major cause of bumble bee declines. U.S. scientists analyzed museum specimens of bees from the past several decades, and found a temporal association between increasing N. bombi infections and declining bee populations. But they could not conclude whether this is a cause or effect of the decline. The researchers used an Agilent Bioanalyzer System to ensure the quality and quantity of the DNA and RNA samples.
What can you do to help? According to Bumble Bee Conservation, you can make your yard bee-friendly. Grow flowers, including flowering trees and shrubs. Create safe places for bees by leaving some areas unmowed and unraked. And provide a pesticide-free environment.
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