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Bumblebees respond to weather and climate

In the last month there have been several stories about bumblebees, a major pollinator, in the media.  Here are a couple of the stories.

Science Magazine reported on a story about the aerodynamics of bumblebees carrying pollen compared to nectar.  Researchers studied the stability in flight of bees carrying nectar, which is held close to the bees’ abdomens, with those carrying pollen, which is carried out on the legs away from the body, using bees in a wind tunnel.  The scientists showed that bumblebees carrying pollen were more stable in flight than those carrying nectar, but were less maneuverable. This may help explain why on windy days the bumblebees are more likely to carry pollen.  You can read about this at  http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2015/08/bumblebees-prefer-pollen-windy-days.

Another story in the news described the inability of bumblebees to migrate to more northern areas due to the  warming climate.  According to a report in The Verge, bumblebees originated in cooler areas of the world and so are particularly suited to pollination in cooler seasons and environments.  As the world gets warmer, the bumblebees in warmer areas are dying off and more northern species are not migrating with the climate, so that they are squeezed into a narrower range.  This has important implications for agriculture because bumblebees are important pollinators for strawberries, peppers and tomatoes.  You can also listen to a story about this and read a companion report from National Public Radio here and in the New York Times here.

Source: Orangeaurochs, Commons WIkimedia

Source: Orangeaurochs, Commons WIkimedia