It is not just honeybees that are in trouble. The fuzzy American bumblebee seems to be disappearing in the Midwest. Two new studies in today's journal Science conclude that wild bees, including the American bumblebee, are increasingly important in pollinating flowers and crops that provide us with food. And, at least in the Midwest, they seem to be dwindling in an alarming manner, possibly from disease and parasites.
Researchers at Montana State University could find only half the species of wild bees that had been catalogued a century ago, 54 of 109 types. "That's a significant decline," says one of the researchers. "It's a scary decline." And what's most noticeable is the near absence of one particular species, the yellow-and-black American bumblebee, which has previously been the most common bee in the Midwest. In 447 hours of searching, the MSU researchers found only one.