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Bumblebees Buck the Trend

Photo by Demeter XIII

Colorado nonnative honeybees still in decline

Contrary to the national trend, Boulder County bumblebees are holding their own, say researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Undergraduate volunteers in a CU study documented local bee populations for a research paper published in the Journal of Insect Conservation. They discovered that bumblebees are thriving in Boulder County, but nonnative honeybees are still in decline. (Photo courtesy CU Boulder)

In a study published in the Journal of Insect Conservation, the researchers found the county’s bee-friendly practices, like pollinator-friendly plantings and neonicotinoid-free neighborhoods and parks, are helping local bumblebee populations survive. In fact, undergraduate volunteers found two native species headed for extinction in other parts of North America at several locales here.

“It shows Boulder County is doing something right in maintaining as much green space and floral resources as it has,” says study coauthor Diana Oliveras, biology instructor in CU’s Baker Residential Academic Program.

Although that’s encouraging news, Colorado’s nonnative honeybees are still in decline, and local beekeepers say they’re experiencing high losses this year. The study also found that one bumblebee species is emerging much earlier than usual, which could be due to climate change and other factors like inbreeding.

(Photo courtesy CU Boulder)

“I would not want people to take a message from this that they should be complacent and that all of Colorado is in good shape in terms of pollinators,” cautions coauthor Carol Ann Kearns, associate director of Baker RAP. “We are very fortunate here.”

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