CAPITAL BERG – A new study has found that bumblebees found in the Rocky Mountains are now growing shorter tongues because climate change has started irradiating several of their favorite flowers.
Researchers have been saying for a while now that certain long-tongued alpine species of bees are becoming rarer and rarer. The’re known for feeding from flowers that have deep corolla tubes, but these are becoming increasingly hard to find as well.
The study was carried out by Nicole Miller-Struthman, field expert from SUNY College at Old Westbury (New York) and her colleagues, who decided to investigate the phenomenon due to lack of information on the issue. They focused their efforts on two (2) species of bumblebees: the Bombus Balteatus and the B. Sylvicola.
They came to the conclusion that modern day bees had “a significant shortening” in their tongues after comparing the physical characteristics that bumblebees in three (3) different mountain peeks in Colorado had between the years of 1966 and 1980, to those that they had between the years of 2012 and 2014.
The research team considered a number of possible explanations – competition from invaders, decreasing body size, co-evolution with local flowers – but eventually had to accept that the factor causing them to grow shorter tongues was climate change.
The warmer temperatures are causing fewer and fewer flowers with deep corolla tubes to grow, which in turn is forcing long-tongued alpine bumblebees to abandon their preference and become generalists that feed from whatever flowers they can find, many of which are shallow in nature.
A paragraph from the study reads as follows: “Our analyses suggest that reduced flower density at the landscape scale is driving this shift in tongue length”. This is just one of many devastating effects that climate change had had on various bee populations. Earlier research have found that the insects are dying off because of habitat lose.
But humans have played their role as well as other studies have revealed that increased pesticide use had been another factor that has put bumblebees in danger in recent years.
The decline in bee population started back in 2006, when an alarming number of buzzing insects died because of a condition commonly known as “colony collapse disorder ” (CCD), and continues to worry researchers to this day. A recent survey from earlier this years showed that beekeepers across the nation reported losing over 40 percent (40%) of their colonies in a single years (from April 2014 to April 2015).
If worse comes to pass and bees go extinct or become endangered, field experts warn that the event would impact the country’s food supply
Having said all of this, the authors believe that one good thing might come out of the effects climate change has on bumblebees – they will likely start to feed more on flowers found “In remote mountain habitats – largely isolated from habitat destruction, toxins, and pathogens”.
The findings were published just last week, on Thursday (September 24, 2015), in the journal Science.
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