Plight of the pollinators seen as a threat to global crops

The wild Andrena bee visiting blueberry flowers ~ Rufus Isaacs photo

The wild Andrena bee visiting blueberry flowers ~ Rufus Isaacs photo

February 28, 2013The tricoloured bumble bee used to flit around blueberry fields in the Maritimes pollinating flowers and helping deliver bumper berry crops.

Not anymore.

“In the 1990s it started to really decline,” says Steven Javorek, a landscape ecologist with Agriculture Canada. He says the once-common bee with its distinct orange belt is now rarely seen, joining the growing list of wild pollinators in trouble.

While they may be lowly insects, Javorek and his colleagues have amassed evidence that their demise is not just an environmental concern but a threat to global food production.

In an international study released Thursday they say wild pollinators are critical, if often overlooked and abused, players in agriculture.

They pollinate crops more effectively than honeybees leading to twice as many flowers developing into fruit and seed, the researchers report in their study in the journal Science.

Without steps to conserve wild pollinators and protect their habitats “the ongoing loss of wild insects is destined to compromise agricultural yields worldwide,” the scientists warn. Continue reading

To bee or not to bee: Endangered species vanishing without explanation

The Wild Side, Part Three

Published August  19, 2012

By Margaret Munro

TORONTO – Sheila Colla wades into the pye weeds, her net swooping over the pink flowers. “This is bumble bee heaven,” she says, as she catches a bee and nudges it from the net into a small plastic vial for inspection.It’s a lemon cuckoo bumble bee, one of the strange cast of characters in the bee world. The cuckoo bee invades colonies, usurps the queen and enslaves her workers.

There is no sign, however, of the rusty-patched bumble bee that Colla has been searching for all summer. It used to be one of the most common bees in southern Ontario and Quebec but is now one of the rarest.

In fact, the rusty-patched bumble bee, known to scientists as Bombus affinis, is the first bee in North America to be officially declared an endangered species. Continue reading