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The Plight Of The Bumble Bees


Bees have been in the news a lot in recent years, probably starting in 2006, when colony collapse disorder was first observed and became part of the American lexicon.  However, much of this attention was focused on domesticated honey bees, a European species that is kept for crop pollination and honey production.  The status of native bees was unknown and understudied, though this may be changing. 

A recent publication in Science Magazine has put bees back into the spotlight around the USA.  UPR’s Ashley Rohde spoke with the author about what his findings mean for bees.

“My name is Peter Soroye, I’m a PhD student in Biology at the University of Ottawa.  Recently I had a paper in Science, looking at predicting climate change-related extinction risk in bumble bees across North America and Europe.  So when we looked at how bumble bees had been faring over the past 25 year span, we found bumble bees were disappearing really drastically over this short time-scale. And this was related really strongly to the extremes in temperature, especially,”

Science magazine is a premier scientific journal.  Many scientists go an entire career without publishing their research there.

“We had this big dataset of bumble bee sightings, going back more than 100 years.  From the moment when we spit out that first figure, and we looked at that figure on the computer screen to the whiteboard where we had sketched up the idea, we were like ‘this could be big.  We could really be on to something.’”  

“It’s really clear that a lot of people, and not scientists, really care about this issue.  And I’m really happy that we were able to publish a paper that resounds with so many people, not just with scientists but with the public at large, as well.”

Utah is home to a bumble bee species of conservation concern, the western bumble bee.  It has been petitioned for listing as endangered on the Endangered Species Act, but the decision is pending and research on this species is ongoing.