Bumble bees, familiar and industrious insects, are silent messengers of environmental conditions. They respond to changing land use practices and other human-induced pressures. Yet little was known about the distribution and conservation status of bumble bees in Vermont.
From 2012 to 2014, VCE biologists and citizen scientists spread across the state, from roadsides to mountain meadows, to document the relative abundance and distribution of Vermont's bumble bees, and a similar appearing bee, the Eastern Carpenter Bee. Prior to this massive effort, there was no statewide data bank, no maps of their distribution, and no scientific assessment of their conservation status. Today, thanks in part to this effort, bumble bees are now on the conservation radar screen.
There were dire reports from around the world concerning the decline of bumble bees. Despite these prior warnings, what we found closer to home was a wakeup call for bee conservation. By comparing our surveys with historic collections at regional museums, we found that of the 17 bumble bee species known to have historically occurred in Vermont, five of them were now missing. Three of these species, formerly common, are now legally listed as threatened and endangered in Vermont. Three other species appear to have declined markedly. Nearly half of the Vermont bumble bee fauna appears to have dramatically declined in the last few decades.
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