Bumble bees belong to the genus Bombus, in the family Apidae (bees). They are different from other bees because they are large, fuzzy and carry pollen in ‘pollen baskets’ on their hind legs. There are approximately 250 species of bumble bee globally and about 50 are found in North America.
Bumble bees not only provide us with fruits and vegetables, they have also evolved with native flowering plants and, through pollination, provide many wild birds and mammals with food and shelter.
Some crops which bumble bees pollinate include tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, blueberries, chives, cucumbers, apples, strawberries, blackberries, soybeans, sunflowers, beans, cherries, eggplants, and cranberries.
There is evidence that in North America some of (not all) our bumble bee species are in decline. In fact, one species known from Oregon and California (Franklin’s Bumblebee) has recently been listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered. Scientists are quickly trying to figure out what is causing these declines so we can start conserving what we have left. Currently, the suspected threats to wild bumble bees are:
Habitat loss • Pesticide use • Pathogen spillover from managed bees • Climate change
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