Climate Change and Bees

Kirsten Long

Yet more evidence is coming forward that our warming climate is having a detrimental impact on the bee population. This time a study suggests that the mason bee is in trouble.

A study conducted by Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden found that the extinction of mason bees in Arizona and naturally warm climates is related to climate change.

The study involved a field experiment where the temperature of the bees’ nests was modified to imitate a warmer climate. Within the first year 35 percent of the bees had died and in the second year around 70 percent had died. The temperatures were testing the physiological limits of the bees and it is evident that researchers could see local extinction in warmer regions. Not only did they observe the increase in mortality rates, they also discovered that the bees were emerging from diapause in a longer period of time, showing that they were responding to a stressful environment. Diapause is defined as a period of suspended development in an insect or animal. The researchers also witnessed a decrease in body size and lower body fat in the bee.

The mason bee, also called the blueberry mason bee, typically nests inside dead tree stumps and are primary pollinators of the manzanita shrubs. They have a significant impact on its ecosystems since almost 90 percent of all plants that flower reap the benefits of animal pollination.

In a previous article we blogged about honeybees and bumblebees also being affected by climate change. The list of potential stressors affecting these species includes pesticides, parasites, loss of food sources, habitat loss and climate change.

The honeybees are also a great pollinator, like the mason bee, and tend to pollinate crops including broccoli, lemons, sunflowers, red peppers, strawberries, and more.

Climate change has caused a shift in weather patterns and in turn has changed the time that the honeybees migrate. After observing these bees for over 25-years, it was noted that their migration now starts a full month earlier.

The change in global temperatures is having a lasting impact on many different species of bees. These slight changes are adding up and can have a harmful effect on many ecosystems and ultimately impact our planet.