As Bumblebees Disappear, Survey Aims To Track Them

05/22/12 5:04PM By Steve Zind

A new study hopes to determine the health of Vermont's bumblebee population. It's a response to concerns that a variety of factors are contributing to the decline of the native insects. 

Ecologist Leif Richardson says of 19 species of bumblebees once found in Vermont, four have all but disappeared.

"They just crashed precipitously," explains Richardson. "They were abundant one year and gone the next year. So we know it's a real trend.  There are other species of bumblebees that have been declining also, but more gradually."

Richardson says parasites carried by non-native bumblebees may be responsible for the dramatic decline in some species, while others might be affected by pesticides and changes in habitat. 

Kent McFarland of the Vermont Center For Ecostudies is heading up the Vermont Bumblebee Survey

McFarland says while much attention has been focused on problems with honeybees, other bees are important pollinators, pointing out, "There's been some studies in Europe and Great Britain where they've showed a large decline in bumblebees and other bee species and right along with it they've seen a decline in native plant species, so we know already that you lose bees, you lose plants."

The Vermont Bumblebee Survey is relying on citizen-scientist volunteers to help establish a statewide database of species still found in Vermont.

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