WASHINGTON – Four previously abundant species of bumblebee are close to disappearing in the United States, researchers reported Monday in a study confirming that the agriculturally important bees are being affected worldwide.
They documented a 96% decline in the numbers of the four species, and said their range had shrunk by as much as 87%. As with honeybees, a pathogen is partly involved, but the researchers also found evidence of inbreeding caused by habitat loss.
“We provide incontrovertible evidence that multiple Bombus species have experienced sharp population declines at the national level,” the researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calling the findings “alarming.”
“These are one of the most important pollinators of native plants,” Sydney Cameron of the University of Illinois, Urbana, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.