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Bumble bees (genus Bombus)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 12254384

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 12254384) - Bumble bees - Awarded $6,000 on November 10, 2012

Bumble bees are very important as pollinators of both wild and domestic plants, and we now know that the disappearance of wild bumble bees can have far ranging ecological impacts. In parts of Europe where several pollinators have declined, plants that require insect pollination have also declined, probably as a result of the loss of their pollinators. Bumble bees are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems, necessary not only for plant reproduction, but also forming the basis of an intricate food web that extends to songbirds and other wildlife.

In 2010, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation partnered with Dr. Paul Williams of London's Natural History Museum and other bumble bee scientists to form the IUCN SSC Bumblebee Specialist Group. The key priority of this group is to assess the status of all 253 species of bumble bees worldwide using the IUCN Red List Criteria. The Bumblebee Specialist Group is comprised of more than 70 bumble bee scientists from ten world regions, including East Asia, West Asia, Japan, Himalaya, East Russia, West Russia, Europe, South America, North America, and Mesoamerica.

Bumble bees face a variety of threats that are not well understood - from habitat loss and climate change to introduced pathogens - and declines have been documented in Europe, North America, South America and Asia. There is a growing commercial bumble bee industry that may also be threatening wild species. Yet a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the global status of bumble bees has yet to be conducted.

In North America, preliminary evidence suggests that at least five bumble bee species are highly endangered, and anecdotal reports suggest that even more species may be imperiled. There is an urgent need to better understand the conservation status of each species. Despite the observed and inferred declines in multiple species of bumble bees, only one species - Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini) - has been assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria. Franklin's bumble bee historically had a very restricted range in western North America, is considered Critically Endangered, and may now be extinct. Determining which species of bumble bees are most imperiled (using consistent criteria among species) is an essential first step to developing a bumble bee conservation action plan.

The primary objective of this project is to complete draft status assessments of all 46 species of bumble bees in North America using the IUCN Red List Criteria. This will be accomplished by evaluating changes in relative abundance, persistence, and extent of occurrence (EOO) using a database of more than 200,000 North American bumble bee records, and reviewed by the network of North American bumble bee experts within the Bumblebee Specialist Group. 

The results of this assessment will be used to prioritize most imperiled North American bumble bee species and their habitats for conservation action. 




Project 12254384 location - United States, North America