WASHINGTON — Weakened by inbreeding and disease, bumble bees have died off at an astonishing rate over the past 20 years, with some US populations diving more than 90 percent, according to a new study.
The findings are of concern because bees play a crucial role in pollinating crops such as tomatoes, peppers and berries, said the findings of a three-year study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Similar declines have also been seen in Europe and Asia, said Sydney Cameron, of the Department of Entomology and Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois, the main author of the study.
“The decline of bumble bees in the US is associated with two things we were able to study: the pathogen Nosema bombi and a decline in genetic diversity. But we are not saying Nosema is the cause. We don’t know,” said Cameron.
“It’s just an association. There may be other causes.”
He added that the decline is “huge and recent,” having taken place in the last two decades.
Nosema bombi is a bee pathogen that has also afflicted European bumble bees.
Researchers examined eight species of North American bumble bees and found that the “relative abundance of four species has dropped by more than 90 percent, suggesting die-offs further supported by shrinking geographic ranges,” said the study.
“Compared with species of relatively stable population sizes, the dwindling bee species had low genetic diversity, potentially rendering them prone to pathogens and environmental pressures.”
Their cousins, the honey bees, have also experienced catastrophic die-offs since 2006 in a phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder,” though the causes have yet to be fully determined.
Bumble bees also make honey, but it is used to feed the colony, not farmed for human consumption.
They are however raised in Europe for pollinating greenhouse vegetables in a multi-billion-dollar industry that has more recently taken off in Japan and Israel and is being developed in Mexico and China, Cameron said.
“We need to start to develop other bees for pollination beside honey bees, because they are suffering enormously,” he added.
There are around 250 species of bumble bee, including 50 in the United States alone.
UK travel giant Thomas Cook set to collapse: report
Thomas Cook's 178-year existence was reported to be coming to an end on Monday after the British travel firm struggled to find private investment to keep it afloat, potentially affecting thousands of holidaymakers.
The operator has said it needs £200 million ($250 million) or else it will face administration, which could affect 600,000 holidaymakers and require Britain's largest peacetime repatriation.
A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the cash from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.
But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator's longer-term viability, the Times reported, leaving it on the brink.
‘We are the people’: Watch Billy Porter get a standing ovation for his passionate speech at the Emmys
In a powerful and passionate speech accepting his Emmy, "Pose" actor Billy Porter showered the audience with love and proudly reminded all of their right to belong and be loved.
"Oh, my God. God bless you all! The category is love, y'all, love!" Porter exclaimed.
The epic FX show "Pose" depicts Black and Latinos in the LGBTQ ballroom culture of New York City in the 1980s in the first season and the early 1990s in the second season.
"I am so overwhelmed and so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day," he said. "James Baldwin wrote, 'It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.' I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right."
Paris show of King Tutankhamun artifacts set new record with 1.42 million visitors
A blockbuster Tutankhamun show set a new all-time French record Sunday, with 1.42 million visitors flocking to see the exhibition in Paris, the organisers said.
The turnout beat the previous record set by another Tutankhamun show billed as the "exhibition of the century" in 1967, when 1.24 million queued to see "Tutankhamun and His Times" at the Petit Palais.
"Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" -- which has been described as a "once in a generation" show -- will open in London in November.
The last time a show of comparable size about the boy king opened there in 1972 it sparked "Tutmania", with 1.6 million people thronging the British Museum.