Bumblebees are important pollinators of wild flowering plants and agricultural crops. They are able to fly in cooler temperatures and lower light levels than many other bees, making them excellent pollinators – especially at higher elevations and latitudes. They also perform a behavior called “buzz pollination,” in which the bee grabs the flower in her jaws and vibrates her wing muscles to dislodge pollen from the flower. Many plants, including a number of wildflowers and crops like tomatoes, peppers, and cranberries, benefit from buzz pollination.
Because they are essential pollinators, loss of bumblebees can have far ranging ecological consequences. Alarmingly, recent work indicates that some species have experienced rapid and dramatic declines more than others. While some species have received considerable conservation attention, other species are still being largely overlooked.
Bumblebees face many threats including habitat loss, disease, pesticide use, and climate change. Unlike honeybees which have large (>10,000 individuals) perennial hives, bumblebees produce smaller annual colonies (50-1,500 individuals). Due to their smaller annual population sizes, life cycle, and genetic makeup, they are uniquely susceptible to extinction.