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Decline of bumble bees (Bombus) in the North American Midwest

Biological Conservation


Declines in many bumble bee species have been documented in Europe raising several ecological and economic concerns. The nature and extent of bumblebee decline in North America is poorly understood due mainly to a lack of baseline and long-term data. Museum collections provide excellent sources of information on past and current species distributions, which can be used to infer changes in the composition of insect communities. Using the Illinois Natural History Survey's electronic database of Hymenoptera and a recent biodiversity survey of historically sampled localities, we were able to examine changes in the richness and distribution of the bumble bee fauna of Illinois over the last century. We found that bumble bee species richness declined substantially during the middle of the century (1940-1960). Four species were locally extirpated: Bombus borealis, Bombus temarius, Bombus terricola and Bombus variabilis. The ranges of Bombus affinis, Bombus fraternus, Bombus pensylvanicus and Bombus vagans have also decreased in Illinois. Our analyses also indicated that current bumble bee diversity is highest in northern Illinois, where conservation efforts would be most productive. Our study demonstrates that half of the bumble bee species found historically in Illinois have been locally extirpated or have suffered declines, supporting observations of broader declines in North America. Major declines in the bumble bee fauna coincided with large-scale agricultural intensification in Illinois between 1940 and 1960. Attempts to conserve bumble bees in Illinois should involve wildlife-friendly approaches to agriculture, such as increasing agricultural land set-asides and hedgerows, and employing integrated pest management. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author(s): Grixti, JC; Wong, LT; Cameron, SA; Favret, C

Journal: Biological Conservation

Year: 2009


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