Those rows of big juicy tomatoes on grocery store shelves are brought to you in part by the work of wild bees, which help pollinate tomato plants.

But warming temperatures and changing rainfall patterns could make certain areas difficult to live in for some species of wild bees.

“We found that there were some regions in North America where we will potentially have great decreases in pollinator richness,” says Luis Carrasco.

While at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis in Tennessee, Carrasco studied how climate change could affect 15 species of bees that pollinate tomatoes.

He says in some regions, populations will likely remain stable.

But other areas will see large declines – for example, Ohio, a top tomato-producing state. Carrasco’s team found that in the next 30 years, large parts of the state could lose more than a third of the bee species studied.

With fewer bee species, the quantity and quality of Ohio tomatoes could decline, which Carrasco says is worrying for the tomato production in this area.

Carrasco’s team only looked at tomatoes. But wild insects pollinate many plants, so he says climate change could have big impacts on farmers.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Molly Matthews Multedo

Fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, Molly Matthews Multedo is the founding director of Acquazul, a nonprofit that creates multilingual broadcast and digital media on social and environmental issues...