With all the to-do about the disappearing honeybees, not much has been written about the humble bumblebee. Bumblebees, though less glamorous because they don’t produce much honey, are still a crucial part of nature’s chain and therefore, agriculture—they pollinate 15 percent of all domestic crops, especially greenhouse-grown plants such as tomatoes and strawberries. And like honeybees, they’re becoming scarce.
A recent study blames the bumblebee’s demise on the combined effects of habitat loss, pesticides, pollution, and disease. A U.C. Davis professor says the Franklin’s bumblebee may have gone extinct before anyone even put it on the endangered species list, and two more bumblebee species have become rare. The combined disappearance of both the honeybee and the bumblebee spells trouble for agriculture; bumblebees pollinate different crops and at different times than honeybees.
Most recently, scientists have found that a single virus is “strongly correlated” with colony collapse disorder, and is killing both bumblebees and honeybees.