Climate Change Causing Bumblebee Nests To Overheat To Fatal Levels, According To New Study 

As global temperatures rise as a result of climate change, bumblebee nests are overheating and killing off large groups of bees, causing major concern over the future of one of Earth’s most essential pollinators. 

The recent research comes from a paper that was published in Frontiers in Bee Science, which stated that global heating is causing “many species of Bombus, or bumblebee,” to decline. The research emphasized that bumblebee colonies are known for their thermoregulation, which is when worker bees gather and use their wings to fan the hive in hot conditions to cool them off. 

As the climate crisis continues to intensify globally, the earth is experiencing more intense heat waves which is causing bumblebees to struggle to keep their homes habitable. 

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The paper stated that most bumblebee broods cannot survive temperatures above 36 degrees Celsius. For the research, the team reviewed 180 years of literature to make their conclusions. They found that for all bumblebee species, the ideal temperature for incubating nests was between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius. 

The lead author of the study, Peter Kevan, recently spoke to the Guardian about the reports findings and the risks bumblebee populations are now facing. 

“If [bumblebees] can’t keep temperatures below what is probably a lethal limit of about 35C, when the brood may die, that could explain why we are losing so many bumblebees around the world, especially in North America and Europe.”

Kevan also told the publication that the bumblebee’s nest is “often-overlooked” for its role as a “superorganism.”

“Researchers have been looking at foraging behavior and fanning to keep the brood cool, but there are very few studies that look at the whole nest,” he said. 

One of the biggest arguments that the study tried to make was that nests should be seen as a whole entity. While some of the bees may be able to handle the increase in temperature, if the nest itself becomes too hot to raise healthy offspring, the entire colony will decline. 

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“We have known for a long time that bumblebees are cool-climate specialists. Most insects are more abundant in the tropics, but bumblebees are weird in that they are at their most abundant in places like the Alps and Britain,” said Dave Goulson, a professor of biology at the University of Sussex, who was not involved in the research.  

“There are even some that live in the Arctic, the Bombus polaris. That means an obvious problem with climate change – they are vulnerable to warming… if the air outside is too hot, that’s not going to help,” he stated

Goulson stated that there is current evidence that shows bumblebees are already moving away from warmer climates: “There have been publications showing mountain bumblebees are moving higher as a way to combat warming, but obviously there is a limit to that.”

“It is kind of heartbreaking to think that many may disappear.”

Bumblebees are an essential part of our world’s ecosystem. They pollinate wild flowers and crops which in turn feeds other animals and the cycle continues. 

“For other pollinators, the outlook under a hotter climate is less clear. Some bee species can cope with warmer temperatures, and some species that now live farther south may move north as temperatures rise, making a new home in the UK. With other pollinators, such as flies, wasps, butterflies, birds and bats, it’s hard to generalize,” Goulson said.