What Are the Effects of Global Warming on Bees

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Bees are found in all continents, with the exception of Antarctica. Bees feed on nectar and pollen of flowers, which provide a source of energy, protein and minerals. They play an important role in the pollination of plants, which is the base to successful food crops. Global warming is negatively affecting bee populations around the globe. The increase of temperatures and earlier flowering is promoting the decline in bee populations and number of species, as well as changes in their behavior and development.

Population Decline

  • In the past decade, the populations of bees has been declining across the world, thus reducing pollination levels by 50 percent. Global warming, as well as the indiscriminate use of pesticides and habitat loss by deforestation, have contributed to the decline of bee populations. The increase in temperatures has changed the flowering pattern of plants, thus altering the availability of nectar and consequently honey. Without enough honey to feed the hive during the winter months, bees struggle to survive.

Behavioral Changes

  • As a result of global warming, snow is melting earlier in cold areas such as the southern Rockies. This is making the glacier lilies appear sooner in the year. Bees that pollinate the lilies are leaving hibernation too late, thus reducing nectar collection and honey supplies. In Maryland, bees have traditionally collected the nectar from American tulip trees, producing a red, rich honey. However, to guarantee enough supplies during the winter months, bees are also producing a lighter honey from the nectar of the black locusts trees, which blossom much later.

Biodiversity Decline

  • Bees are not all the same; there are roughly 20,000 different bee species around the globe. Global warming is one the reasons for biodiversity decline in bee populations. The rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), normally found in eastern North America, is almost extinct. Franklin's bumblebee (Bombus franklini), once common in northern California and southern Oregon, is now rarely seen and believed to be extinct. According to a study published in 2007 in "Pacific Science," 10 out of the 60 species of the Hawaiian Hylaeus bees are believed to be extinct.

Early Development Changes

  • Bees pass through various stages of development before becoming adult. This time ranges from 16 days to 24 days, depending on species and social hierarchy. Queens often become adults in a little more than two weeks and fertile in approximately 23 days. Global warming results in higher temperatures inside the hive, which is related to alteration in the the early stages of development.

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