It’s no exaggeration to say that our lives depend on pollinators like bumblebees. About a third of all food crops grown globally rely on pollination. But bumblebees are having a hard time adapting to a warming world.

Bumblebee photo

Bumblebee populations in both North America and Europe are leaving their southern-most ranges for cooler climates. But bumblebees at the northern edge of their range are not moving farther north.

Kerr: “If you look at almost any other group, they’re expanding to the north as temperatures warm. Bumblebee species are not doing this.”

That’s University of Ottawa biologist Jeremy Kerr. He says why the bees are not migrating to more northern latitudes remains a mystery. But the results were independent of changing land and pesticide use.

”Shrinking Click To Tweet

Given the many pressures pollinators already face, shrinking bumblebee territory is a troubling trend for our food systems. But while scientists try to solve the puzzle, there are things we can do to help bumblebees.

Kerr: “Just planting a small pollinator-friendly garden can have a really big and positive impact on the health of local pollinator populations.”

More native, flowering plants can give bumblebees a boost, but getting at the roots of climate change is essential to keeping our bumblebees buzzing.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Evan Lowenstein.
Photo: Bumblebee (courtesy of Jeremy Kerr).

More Resources
Climate change impacts on bumblebees converge across continents
Bees are stressed out! Scientists say climate change is part of the problem
Climate change is shrinking where bumblebees range, research finds
What’s behind bee declines and colony collapse? Latest science on stress from parasites, pesticides, habitat loss
Bumblebees decimated by climate change: Study
Curb climate change or lose bumblebees, blueberries, tomatoes

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John Wihbey

John Wihbey, a writer, educator, and researcher, is an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University and a correspondent for Boston Globe Ideas. Previously, he was an assistant director...