American Bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus)


Few things brighten my day like watching a plump, fuzzy bumblebee clumsily clambering about flowers in my garden. Once the most abundant bumblebee across the United States, the American Bumblebee has seen a stark population decline of nearly 90% over the past few decades.


Bumble bees are one of the most important pollinators of wild plants and are invaluable in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They also pollinate agricultural crops like tomatoes, blueberries and squash. Habitat loss, climate change, introduced diseases, competition with non-native honey bees and pesticide use are all implicated in their decline. Neonicotinoids, a class of insecticide known to be “less toxic to mammals and birds” is especially devastating, as it is an insect neurotoxin that tends to accumulate in the nectar and pollen of plants, decimating pollinator populations. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, states that have the highest use of neonicotinoids have seen the starkest drop in Bumblebee populations. It goes without saying that insect-eating bird populations are also declining in states with the highest use of pesticides owning to bioaccumulation.


As of now there is no protection for the American bumblebee, but two other species – the Rusty Patch Bumblebee and Franklin’s Bumblebee are listed as officially endangered in the United States. Planting native plants including wildflowers and avoiding the use of pesticides are the best ways people can contribute to help native bee populations. For anyone interested, the Xerces Society has wonderful resources for region specific pollinator plants on their website.



Resources:


Gamillo, Elizabeth. "The American Bumblebee Has Nearly Vanished From 8 States" Smithsonian Magazine. October 6th 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/american-bumblebee-has-vanished-from-eight-us-states-180978817/


"Saving the American Bumblebee" Center for Biological Diversity. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/invertebrates/American-bumblebee/ Accessed May 30, 2022.

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