US Bumblebee Populations In Freefall

Half of species studied are in steep decline
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2011 6:08 AM CST
A yellow-faced bumblebee gathers pollen on a California poppy.   (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)
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(Newser) – The collapse in honeybee populations has been getting all the attention, but bumblebees are also in serious trouble, according to a new study, Populations of four common species of bumblebee in the US have dropped by up to 96% over the last few decades, according to a nationwide census of the insects. Scientists believe the decline is due to disease and inbreeding caused by habitat loss, the Guardian reports.

Most research has focused on honeybees, although bumblebees are also important pollinators of wild plants and commercial crops including tomatoes and berries. "We picked these target species because they sort of were canaries in the coal mine," the lead researcher says. Four other common species of bumblebee were found to have relatively stable populations.

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