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Everything from fungus to parasites, pesticides to disease, pollution to habitat loss, has been blamed for the startling—often sudden—declines in bee populations worldwide. Though a wide range of possible causes have been identified, a reliable solution has yet to be implemented.
Now, another possible factor has been identified: Shifting seasonal changes brought on by climate change.
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A study by researchers at the University of Toronto looked at 17 years worth of data and determined that the downturn in pollinator populations may be related to changes in seasonal boundaries.
James Thomson, who authored the study, explained:
Climate-driven mismatch between the times when flowers open and when bees emerge from hibernation is a more important factor...early in the year, when bumble bee queens are still hibernating, the fruiting rates are especially low...this is sobering because it suggests that pollination is vulnerable even in a relatively pristine environment that is free of pesticides and human disturbance but still subject to climate change.
In spite of these findings, other experts are not willing to jump on the link between climate change and bee declines.
Francis Ratnieks, a professor of apiculture at the University of Sussex, commented that the downturn demonstrate in the study was not significant enough to draw wide-ranging conclusions. "Who knows," he said, "the degree to which [this] affects the long term viability of the population?"
That said, the root cause of the decline of pollinators remains a mystery. In the end, Dave Goulson, director of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust explained, it is likely the result of several pressures working together.
Which means, until the precise impact of these pressures is understood individual factors cannot be ignored.
Read more about bees:
Bees Rejoice: One Potential Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder Identified
New Bee Death Stats in US Bring Colony Collapse Disorder Back Into Spotlight
Bayer in the Dock Over Pesticide Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder
New Honeybee Breed Key to Combating Colony Collapse Disorder