As climate change sets in, plants and bees keep pace

December 12, 2011

No laggards, those bees and plants.

As due to climate change encroach winter, bees and plants keep pace.

An analysis of bee collection data over the past 130 years shows that spring arrives about 10 days earlier than in the 1880s, and bees and have kept pace by arriving earlier in lock-step.

The study also found that most of this shift has occurred since 1970, when the change in mean has increased most rapidly, according to Bryan Danforth, Cornell professor of entomology, who co-authored a study published the (Dec. 5, 2011.)

"It's an illustration of how valuable our natural history collections are at Cornell, even if you don't know in advance how these collections might be used," says Danforth. Lead author Ignasi Bartomeus and senior author Rachael Winfree are both entomologists at Rutgers University.

Although the triggers for bee spring emergence are unknown, bees may simply be cued to emerge when temperatures rise above a threshold over a number of days, but "if climate change accelerates the way it is expected to, we don't know if bees will continue to keep up," says Danforth.

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1 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2011
spring arrives about 10 days earlier than in the 1880s

Needs some sort of qualification of how you define "spring", as it is a traditional astronomical classification.

Also, specify region or latitude or something.
3 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2011
Well, Rutgers is in New Jersey and I THINK Cornell is in Connecticut, not sure about Cornell's location offhand. Both being in the NorthEast, I think it's safe to say the researchers have localized their study to that region. The emergence of Spring flowers in full bloom would naturally trigger the almost simultaneous emergence of bees also, since bees gather pollen to feed the colony and delays are costly for the hive. I believe that bees are attuned naturally to the changes in air temperature and Earth's distance from the Sun. . . .although a sudden cold snap could send them back to the hive quickly. Some of my neighbors are beekeepers. I'll need to ask them what they think of this. Climate warming may be beneficial to bees; they will have that much more time to gather their food from field flowers, and thereby pollinate the flowers to ensure a good crop the year after also.

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