Bumblebee (Bombus nevadensis) Moves Up in Elevation
Bumblebees are buzzing higher and higher into thin air as away of coping with climate change. “We do have evidence now that bumble bees are moving up in altitude,” Professor David Inouye said. Bumblebees are moving up the mountainside rather than adapting to the changes occurring at lower elevations.
One species of bumblebee (Bombus nevadensis) that was once considered a relatively low elevation species of bee has made the most dramatic move. In a time span of 30-years the Bombus nevadensis bee has moved up in altitude 1,000 feet. “It is one of about a dozen species that is making the move,” said Inouye, ” but a couple 1,000 feet is pretty significant over that 30 year period.”
The way this move will impact other pre-existing high elevation species has not yet been studied, but Inouye said that these results raise the question of competition among species (Happy Birthday Darwin).
There is more to a bumblebee than its simple black and gold stripes. Different species of bumblebees have different length tongues and live at different elevations. So when one species of bee moves higher it is akin to the whole population of Boulder, Colo. descending on a tiny mountain town. It is possible that there will be enough room for the entire population but there may not be. Only more research can answer that question.
“The species that we have seen that has moved up so far is a long tongue species but they were already some long tongue high altitude species so the question comes up what does that mean? Does that mean that there is going to be increased completion for the species that historically had long tongues or are they some how going to be able to coexist but we haven’t done the research so we don’t know,” he said.