Study: Bumblebees doing better in Boulder County than other parts of the country

BOULDER, Colo. – Bee populations around the country have been on the decline in recent years, but for bumblebees in Boulder County at least, things are going OK for the time being.

That’s according to a study from scientists at CU Boulder, who studied bumblebee populations in the area over a period of five years.

Along with student volunteers, the scientists collected (and released) more than 6,000 bumblebees of 22 different species between 2010 and 2014. They found that none of the 22 native species showed declines over that period and all but one species that was present in the area prior to 1970 was still there.

The researchers also found that two species considered to be on the path toward extinction in parts of North America are present in Boulder County.

The study’s authors credit local policies and initiatives for keeping bee populations steady.

“It shows that Boulder County is doing something right in maintaining as much green space and floral resources as it has,” said co-author and biology instructor Diana Oliveras.

In 2015, the city of Boulder restricted the use of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which have been linked to declines in bee populations. The city also encourages people to plant bee-friendly plants.

The authors caution that the study’s findings don’t necessarily apply to honeybees or to other parts of Colorado. Bee populations in general are still in danger and there’s plenty of work that needs to be done in order to reverse recent declines.

“What I would not want people to do is to take a message from this paper that they should be complacent and that all of Colorado is in good shape in terms of pollinators,” said co-author Carol Ann Kearns. “We are very fortunate here.”

You can read the study in its entirety in the Journal of Insect Conservation.


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