Bumble Bees Rapidly Evolve Due To Climate Change

Everything in the world is constantly adapting to its surroundings; in fact, change is necessary in order for living things to survive. This explains why the tongues of bumblebees have shrunken in size due to the lasting effects of climate change.


Nicole Miller-Struttman, an assistant professor at SUNY College at Old Westerbury, is the lead author behind a new study, which concentrates on two different types of bees, Bombus balteatus and Bombus sylvicola, both of which are native to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Each species possesses distinctively long tongues, which the insects use to reach deep within a plant’s corolla or tube. This proves advantageous for the bees because it prevents them from having to compete with other species for food. It is also beneficial for the flower itself; since only specific species of bees are able to concentrate on its nectar, the pollen gathered is ensured to go to the right species of flower.


The number of these flowers, however, is quickly declining due to the rising temperatures caused by climate change. Researchers, as a result, have found that the tongue sizes of the bees are also rapidly changing so that both species are able to pollinate a wider variety of flowers.

As part of the study, the team took measurements of bees’ tongues from bees collected between the years 1966-1980. This data was then compared to measurements taken from bees collected between 2012 to 2014. The results of the data revealed that the average tongue size of these bees actually declined a resounding 24.4% throughout the length of the study.

The Study of bees

According to the researchers, the flowers and bumblebees possessed what is considered a mutualist relationship, in which both species were codependent on each other. Following the find, the team states that this adaptation should be further examined in order to determine the effect the change will have on both the bees and the plants that depend on them.