PEI

Yellow-banded bumble bee in trouble in Maritimes

A bumble bee once common across the country has been listed as a species of concern in Canada, and the population in the Maritimes is in a particularly steep decline.

Bumble bee listed as species of concern across Canada

The population of yellow-banded bumble bees is of concern across Canada, and particularly in the Maritimes. (Leif Richardson)

A bumble bee once common across the country has been listed as a species of concern in Canada, and the population in the Maritimes is in a particularly steep decline.

The yellow-banded bumble bee was listed recently as a species of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Biologist Cory Sheffield, a world bee expert in Saskatchewan and committee member, told CBC News declines have been even more severe in the Maritimes.

Sheffield said he would consider the bees threatened in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, not just of special concern. He said pathogens from commercial bumble bee hives may be causing problems for wild populations.

"There's been some evidence that parasites from another commercially-managed bumble bee may be a factor," he said.

"These pathogens have been transferred from this commercially available species to this wild species, the yellow-banded bumble bee, and that has sort of been suggested as one of the potential main causes for decline of this species."

Sheffield said insecticide use and a decline in food plants could also be contributing.

The yellow-banded bumble bee is an important pollinator of low-bush blueberries.

Sheffield is encouraging people to reduce their chemical use and plant native wildflowers in their gardens. He also suggested people wait until spring before cleaning out garden boxes, because bumble bees will often burrow into them to overwinter.

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