According to a recent survey by Thomas Wood, a postdoc at MSU, half of Michigan’s 12 native bumblebee species have suffered a 50% loss in population. According to the study, bumblebees who fly early in the season fair better because they forage from flowering trees and shrubs, which are more plentiful. Later flying bees struggle to find food because native prairies and woodlands have been developed and bumblebees depend on the herbs and wildflowers that formerly thrived there. Many agricultural species will not produce without pollination, and farmers are renting or purchasing hives to replace the native bee species.
Bumblebees are declining for many of the same reasons honeybees are also declining. The major factors are habitat loss and neonicotinoids, a class of agricultural pesticides introduced about 25 years ago that are toxic to pollinators.
What you can do:
- Eliminate your use of pesticides containing neonicotinoids.
- Plant bee-friendly species. Downtown Home and Garden sells a pollinator blend of seeds in a canister as well as a large selection of organic seeds from local companies such as the Ann Arbor Seed Company and Nature and Nurture seeds.
- Become a beekeeper. Several beekeeping organizations in Washtenaw County offer educational and networking opportunities year-round to help you become an expert beekeeper and bee advocate. Call ahead to register for the Southeast Michigan Beekeepers Association annual conference on Saturday, March 16th at Wayne County Community College, 9555 Haggerty Rd. in Belleville. The Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers Bee School offers programs for a fee. A free lecture series at Matthaei Botanical Gardens continues on March 12th, from 6:30-8:30pm, 1800 N. Dixboro Rd. For more information, visit bumblebeeconservation.org.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens:
Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers: a2b2club.org
Southeast Michigan Beekeepers Association: sembabees.org