Update: Colony Collapse Disorder & the Plight of the Bumblebee

Colony collapse disorder, the mysterious phenomenon that is causing the death/disappearance of honey bees, may have fallen out of the headlines, but the problem has not gone away. And now the bumblebees may be dying too.

From Yahoo news:

Looking high and low, Robbin Thorp can no longer find a species of bumblebee that just five years ago was plentiful in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon.

He fears that the species — Franklin’s bumblebee — has gone extinct before anyone could even propose it for the endangered species list. [Emphasis added.] To make matters worse, two other bumblebee species — one on the East coast, one on the West — have gone from common to rare.

Why you should be (extra) concerned:

Bumblebees are responsible for pollinating an estimated 15 percent of all the crops grown in the U.S., worth $3 billion, particularly those raised in greenhouses. Those include tomatoes, peppers and strawberries.

Demand is growing as honeybees decline. In the wild, birds and bears depend on bumblebees for berries and fruits.

If you live in Illinois, here is one way you can help researchers find out what is happening:

Scientists: Help us count bees, please from Chicago Sun Times

Beekeepers around the country have been reporting catastrophic die-offs of honeybee colonies.

But what about bees that set up their own hives in places like hollow trees?

Surprisingly little is known about these “feral” bees. And there aren’t nearly enough entomologists and grad students to do a reliable survey, said University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum.

Perhaps you can help. U. of I. entomologists are looking for “citizen scientists” to help them count honeybees and bumblebees.