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Uncovering the link between bees and climate change

Flickr: Miquel Vernet

“Colony Collapse” syndrome captured the world’s attention a few years ago. Bumblebees were mysteriously dying in droves and people wanted to know why.

The crisis spread awareness of the vital role that bees play in our food system--and why they are essential in the fight to end extreme poverty.

Through cross-pollination, bees allow 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of the world’s wild plants to thrive. Without bees, many plants would die off, jeopardizing many sources of food.

The cause of this massive die-off has been attributed to a cocktail of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, in particular ominous sounding chemicals called neonicotinoids, which are thought to compromise their immune and nervous systems.  

Now another scourge has been identified, a slower marching and more irresistible development: climate change.

A new study suggests that since the 1970s, 190 miles have been clipped from the southern travel range of bumblebee species, meaning they are not going as far south.

In other words, bees (who enjoy cooler temperatures) are being penned in across Europe and North America, which reduces their ability to cross-pollinate.

A database of more than 420,000 observations of 67 different species from 1900 to 2010 was examined.

From 1970 onward, when climate change accelerated, bees have cut their southern forays by 3 miles each year.

This could lead to large bands of land failing to receive adequate cross-pollination.

Climate change poses concrete harm to humans. But humans are adaptable and will improvise for a long time.

The first victims of climate change will be animals who will see their habitats change in irrevocable ways. Unlike humans, they cannot pick up and move as easily.

As the world adjusts to the challenges of climate change, protecting animals should be a top priority, especially as we enter what some scientists call the "Sixth Extinction."

The well-being of all animals is a good barometer of the well-being of humanity. After all, every creature shares the same planet.

If the world comes together to address the root causes of climate change--air pollution, ocean pollution, deforestation, etc.--then maybe bees will begin to trek south again.

Call on world leaders to prioritize the environment when they commit to the Global Goals in September in TAKE ACTION NOW.