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Peaceful bumblebee becomes invasive
Date:12/9/2013

te of around 200 kilometres a year faster than the ecologists would ever have expected. After just a few years the buff-tailed bumblebee had crossed the mountain chain and it reached the Atlantic coast of Argentina in late 2011. By 2012 the insect had already penetrated deep into south Patagonia reaching the gateways to some of the major national parks. "Given that colonies and not individual insects have to become established, this migration speed is astonishingly fast", says Paul Schmid-Hempel. He is convinced that in just a few years' time the bumblebees will reach the Strait of Magellan. From there it would be just a little leap to Tierra del Fuego. "Unfortunately, we don't have any information at all about the occurrence of bumblebees on this large island", comments the researcher. In the other poorly accessible areas in Southwestern Chile no-one has looked for buff-tailed bumblebees either. That's why we don't have any evidence up to now. As, however, there are often strong winds in Patagonia in the summer, Schmid-Hempel believes that it is possible that the insects could be transported easily to many locations.

Native species are disappearing

The triumphant advance of the European bumblebee is a disaster for the native bumblebees five out of a total of 250 bumblebee species to be found in the world live in southern South America and a disaster particularly for the attractive and vivid orange giant bumblebee Bombus dahlbomii. Wherever the buff-tailed bumblebee settles, the native species are done for: in most areas in which its competitor has appeared, B. dahlbomii has disappeared surprisingly quickly.

One possible reason for its extinction is the protozoan parasite, Crithidia bombi, which lives in the intestines of the buff-tailed bumblebee. This parasite causes intestinal infections in the European and native bumblebee species in South America. It modifies the behaviour of the workers, increases their mor
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Contact: Paul Schmid-Hempel
paul.schmid-hempel@env.ethz.ch
41-446-336-048
ETH Zurich
Source:Eurekalert  

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