Bumblebees in Europe are in BIG trouble, with 24% of known species now threatened with extinction from a combination of climate change, habitat loss and farming practices. Their loss will have flow-on consequences for both food security and associated plant species.
Many of the 68 bumblebee species found in Europe are important pollinators, not just of European food crops, but of specific host plants, which will also become extinct once their pollinator is lost. Of Europe’s 5 most important pollinators, 3 are bumblebees.
The Critically Endangered Bombus cullumanus has seen its habitat range shrink dramatically over the past decades as European farming practices have removed clover, its main food source. As a consequence, its numbers have declined 80% in the past 10 years.
Bumblebees like Bombus hyperboreus from the arctic and sub-arctic regions of Scandinavia and northern Russia are very susceptible to the effects of climate change, where increasing temperatures and more prolonged droughts will greatly reduce its habitat.
The EU has been taking steps to help all bees by banning certain insecticides, and bumblebees will be studied under the Status and Trends of European Pollinators, or STEP program.
“The contribution of bumblebees to food security and the maintenance of wider plant biodiversity is an essential part of Europe’s natural capital,” says Simon Potts, Coordinator of STEP.