A quarter of all European bumblebee species threatened with extinction

Europe is still home to 68 different bumblebee species – of which according to IUCN 24 percent are now directly threatened with extinction and about half have clearly declining populations. The reasons: Habitat loss, agricultural pollution, climate change, and general biodiversity decline. The solution: Reversing all above-mentioned trends.

Bombus cullumanus - a critically endangered European bumblebee
Bombus cullumanus/Cullum’s bumblebee. Once native to several countries around the North Sea – and now only one (sub)species population surviving – and critically endangered – in the Pyrenees. The last NW-European specimen was found in 1953 on the Dutch Wadden island Terschelling (hence the Dutch name ‘waddenhommel’). The NW-European population is now thought to be extinct. The last specimen on all of Earth was seen in 2004… Image credit: Pierre Rasmont/IUCN – Spanish Pyrenees.

So what is going on?

The study is almost two years old, but we haven’t covered it at Bits of Science before (unlike a similar study about bumblebee CCD in the US) – and we think we should.

That is because bumblebees may not receive as much attention as bees, while they seem to be doing at least equally bad in today’s ecologically stressed world, threatened by Colony Collapse Disorder and other factors that result from agricultural intensification and habitat degradation.

According to an EU-sponsored study by the International Union for Concerned Scientists (IUCN) dating from April 2014 bumblebees are particularly vulnerable, because they often depend on single specific host flowering plants – and many wild plants are also in decline, for instance as a result of the spread of monoculture cropland.

IUCN also lists climate change, the use of insecticides (like neonicotinoids) and habitat loss due to urbanisation as critical factors in the European bumblebee decline.

“Protecting bumblebee species and habitats, restoring degraded ecosystems and promoting biodiversity-friendly agricultural practices will be essential to reverse the negative trends in European bumblebee populations,” said Ana Nieto, European Biodiversity Officer of IUCN and coordinator of the study.

We’ll get back to the specific influence of climate change on bumblebees and other pollinators soon. Meanwhile – here’s a tiny bit of good bumblebee news to cheer you up.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm | www.bitsofscience.org

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