Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 14, pp 3585–3595 | Cite as

Assessing declines of North American bumble bees (Bombus spp.) using museum specimens

  • Sheila R. CollaEmail author
  • Fawziah Gadallah
  • Leif Richardson
  • David Wagner
  • Lawrence Gall
Original Paper


Bumble bees are an important group of wild pollinators in North America and considerable concern has been expressed over declines in their populations. However, before causes for declines can be assessed, it is essential that the geographical and chronological patterns of decline be discovered. Hitherto a lack of assessment of historical data has hindered our efforts to determine which species are most at risk. Here, the status of 21 North American bumble bee species (Hymenoptera: Apidae) occurring in the eastern nearctic biogeographic region is assessed using a specimen-level database from compiled museum and survey records dating back to the late nineteenth century from various institutional collections. Using a combination of measures, bumble bee declines were assessed over their entire native ranges. We report here that half of the selected fauna is in varying levels of decline (especially Bombus ashtoni, B. fervidus, and B. variabilis), with the remaining species exhibiting stable or increasing trends (e.g., B. bimaculatus, B. impatiens, and B. rufocinctus). Suggestions for prioritizing conservation efforts for this important group of pollinators are given.


Pollinator decline Bumble bees Bombus Grid cell Museum data Insect collections 



This work would not have been possible without the use of valuable insect specimens from many well-curated collections and recent surveys. We thank additional data providers J. Ascher, Caroline Scully, Mike Arduser, Steve Javorek and Kevin Matteson. We would like to thank Michael Otterstatter for help with statistical analyses and Paul Williams, Ignasi Bartomeus, Sarina Jepsen and reviewers for valuable comments. We thank NSERC-CANPOLIN and NSERC CGS to Fawziah Gadallah and Sheila Colla respectively for providing funding for this work. Data capture at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), the University of Connecticut, Rutgers University, and Cornell University was supported by NSF DBI Grant (0956388, P. I. John S. Ascher), with additional support at AMNH from Robert G. Goelet and at University of Connecticut and the Peabody Museum of Natural History by a state wildlife Grant (09DEP10012AA, P.I. DLW). This is contribution No. 58 from the Canadian Pollination Initiative (NSERC-CANPOLIN).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheila R. Colla
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fawziah Gadallah
    • 2
  • Leif Richardson
    • 3
  • David Wagner
    • 4
  • Lawrence Gall
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of BiologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.University of OttawaOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Dartmouth College Life Sciences CenterHanoverUSA
  4. 4.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  5. 5.Entomology DivisionPeabody Museum of Natural History, Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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