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Study finds climate change could decimate over 75% of European bumblebees in 40 years


Up to three in four bumblebee species could disappear in the coming decades, a new study suggests.

The beloved furry insects will suffer as around 30 percent of their current habitat becomes unsuitable for them in the “worst case scenario” of climate change.

The bumblebee prefers the colder temperatures of northern Europe, so as the climate warms, they will no longer be able to survive.

Its disappearance will be a hard blow for farmers, since insects are among the main pollinators of crops.

Research suggests that the use of pesticides and the degradation of their habitats will also play a role.

Up to three in four bumblebee species could disappear in coming decades, new study suggests

The new findings come as previous research has recorded a decline in terrestrial insects worldwide of around 24 percent over the past 30 years.

The graphic proof of what has been called “Insectageddon” is that there are now fewer insects on car windows and license plates than in previous decades.

According to the latest report, between 32 and 76 percent of European bumblebee species are currently classified as “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global environmental organization that documents the status of the natural world.

But the report says that “several species currently classified as ‘Least Concern’ are expected to show pronounced declines” in the coming years.

The research, published in Nature, states that of the 46 species of bumblebees studied, those most at risk of suffering a “dramatic collapse” are species from arctic and alpine environments, as they will lose around 90 percent of their territory in the same period. .

Dr. Guillaume Ghisbain, a conservation biologist at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium and an author of the report, said he was “deeply saddened” by the findings.

He said: “For several decades, scientists have been sounding the alarm about the decline of pollinators, and bumblebees in particular.

«The demographic trends of the latter have been widely studied in Europe in recent decades, and their decline has been pronounced in many different countries.

“Belgium, for example, is a good example, where a fifth of the species that were once present in the country have completely disappeared.”

Dr. Ghisbain added: “I think this is the case today for many conservation biologists: we look closely at nature, communicate with colleagues around the world who study pollinators, and we all come to convergent conclusions: pollinators are declining. , often more severely than previously thought.’

The bumblebee is considered essential for crop pollination in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

With the destruction of their natural habitats and rising global temperatures, researchers said understanding the impact of these changes on insect populations is important for developing conservation plans.

Dr. Ghisbain and his team used observational data from 1901-1970 and 2000-2014 to develop their models, with projections out to 2080.

These models suggest that Scandinavia, where the climate is much colder, could potentially become a refuge for displaced or threatened species, although Dr Ghisbain said there are conditions for this.

He said: “For this region to effectively host a diverse community of bumblebees in the future, it will be essential to ensure that it remains free of numerous decline factors that were not accounted for in our models.”

‘These factors include heat waves, droughts, the extensive use of pesticides, among others.

“Another important risk is that if many species converge in the same area, they could geographically concentrate their parasites, which could affect their communities.”

Dr. Ghisbain also said there was no guarantee that the bumblebees would be able to migrate to Scandinavia from other parts of Europe.

He said: “That’s why we shouldn’t take Scandinavia or any other potential refuge (habitat) for granted: the survival of bumblebees will ultimately depend on how we protect our natural habitats and climates on a large scale.”


The decline in the number and health of honey bees has caused global concern due to the insects’ critical role as an important pollinator.

Bee health has been closely monitored in recent years as nutritional sources available to bees have decreased and pesticide contamination has increased.

In studies with animal models, researchers found that combined exposure to pesticides and poor nutrition decreased the health of bees.

Bees use sugar to fuel their flights and work within the nest, but pesticides decrease their sugar levels in the hemolymph (‘bee blood’) and therefore reduce their energy reserves.

When pesticides are combined with limited food supplies, bees lack the energy to function, causing survival rates to plummet.

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