Decline of the American Bumble Bee

In Newsby Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory

Perhaps you’ve seen some articles on social media talking about a worrisome phenomenon that scientists are calling the “Insect Apocalypse”. Researchers are starting to put concrete numbers to the startling decline of major insect populations around the world, and the numbers are scary.

One of the insect groups on decline is one that’s probably the most familiar and recognizable to everyone: the friendly bumble bee. Researchers have been reporting the decline of various bees for over a decade, and disturbingly, more and more species keep getting added to this list. The American Bumble bee, Bombus pennsylvanicus, has recently been declared critically endangered.

How can such a common insect be disappearing to the point they’re becoming endangered? They are arguably (or at least used to be) one of the most commonly encountered insects in the Ontario summer landscape. Scientists can’t concretely pinpoint the reason for the decline, but theorize that climate change, habitat loss, and disease could be contributing factors.

Insects make up the fabric of life on this planet – life as we know it would not exist if it weren’t for insects. So what can we do? It is our mission at Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory to inspire others to take a closer look at the “mini animals” whose lives are so interconnected with our own. There are are daily choices we can make to decrease our negative human impact on the world around us.

Actions you can take:

  • Plant a pollinator garden: give our native insects their home back! Devote at least one corner of your lawn/garden space to natural habitat
  • Avoid pesticides and herbicides: we can stand to use less chemicals in general. It’s okay to let a few dandelions pop up, or let some leaves be chewed a little bit, it’s for the better health of our ecosystem
  • Plant trees: trees are home for insects which then make homes for birds, mammals, lichen, etc. Plus, you’ll appreciate some shade!
  • Make a bee bath: bees need to drink, too! And you may see some butterflies or birds also stop by
  • Build a bee house: many of our native bees rely on rotten wood, pithy stems, or even bare ground to nest in
  • Purchase organic whenever possible: this further reduces the use of chemicals in our environment
  • Use less single-use plastic: less waste, less lasting pollutants
  • Reduce travel and consumption of fossil fuels whenever possible: start re-thinking your habits of travel

Further reading:

Eco Watch – 5 Thing we must Learn 

The Guardian – Plummeting Insect Numbers

How Insects can teach your children about nature

The Conversation – Why Should we Learn to Love insects