Bees are in big trouble. The good news is that virtually all ecologically literate North Americans will tell you that. The bad news is they’re worried about the wrong bees — honey bees.
Honey bees don’t belong in North America; they’re domesticated aliens from Europe. “Worrying about their extinction is like worrying about the extinction of cattle,” declares native-bee activist and acclaimed wildlife photographer Clay Bolt.
But North America could lose many of its roughly 4,000 native bee species. For example, applying criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation reports that of the 46 indigenous bumble bee species in the U.S. and Canada 28 percent are at some risk of extinction.
While bumble bees aren’t well understood, they’re well loved. They are so good-natured that getting a female to sting you (males can’t) is a major undertaking. Proceed carefully and you can even stroke her Teddy-bear-like fur. That fur, along with ability to regulate body temperature, allows bumble bees to be out and about on cold mornings long before honey bees rev up. Bumble bees have even been seen 1,055 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
Read the rest of the story at Nature.org.
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