When most people think of bees, they just think they are a nuisance. Swatting bees away don’t even register in our brains as a problem and killing entire nests is celebrated. Even though most of us don’t realize it, bees have a very important impact on our daily lives. Bees, especially the bumblebee, are very crucial to most of the ecosystems on Earth. They not only pollinate flowers, but they pollinate a lot of our crops including tomatoes. In recent years, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee has dwindled in numbers by about 88 percent (USFWS, Sept.
2018). This bee used to thrive in the Midwest and the Northeast United States, but on February 10, 2017, it was placed on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s endangered species list. Today, the range of this bee is limited to 10 U.S. States (USFWS, Sept. 2018). Many factors have contributed to the decline of the bumblebee including, habitat loss, pesticides, and climate change.
Rusty Patched Bumble Bees live in grasslands and prairies, so with the increase of urban areas comes the decrease in natural habitats.
Most organisms adapt to their surroundings, but some can only adapt to an extent. Without flowers to produce pollen and nectar, bees cannot provide their ecosystem service. Without undisturbed soil and underground burrows, they don’t have a place to nest, and new queens don’t have a place to hibernate.
The use of pesticides is so common that it affects wildlife more than people realize. Most people think that pesticides just deter insects and animals from eating and destroying crops.
It is a very poisonous substance when consumed. Pesticides aren’t just distributed onto crops; they also seep into the ground and soil, which is where the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee nests. Bumblebees can absorb toxins through their exoskeleton and can be vulnerable to the soil in which they live (USFWS, 14 Aug. 2018).
Climate change is very unpredictable. Climate affects everything, so if the climate changes drastically, it could have a huge impact on the entire Earth. Bumbles Bees are among the first organisms to come out of hibernation and among the last to go into hibernation. If there is a delay in Spring, that could cause late blooming of flowers, which would give bees less time to pollinate their environment. It could also mean that the Queen comes out of hibernation later and doesn’t have as much time to lay new eggs for the new colony.
Based on input from species experts, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee is expected to be extinct within 5 years, except for one region that would take 30 years (USFWS, June 2016). Even though there is little hope in preserving the bumblebee, efforts are still being made to keep it from going extinct. Inventorying and monitoring the bee will help researchers better understand how to meet its needs and what it is capable of recovering from. Habitat restoration and protection will focus mostly on enhancing floral resources (USFWS, Sept. 2018). Hopefully, these efforts will stabilize the bee population until we find a more permanent solution.
Scientists and researchers aren’t the only ones who can make a difference. Everyone can do their part in saving the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee by doing little things such as planting flowers to give them a new place in this world. Also, if you see a nest that is potentially dangerous to people, don’t exterminate them. Call a no-kill pest control so they can be relocated out in the wild. Bees seem insignificant on a small scale, but they serve one of the most essential purposes. Hopefully, it’s not too late for them.