Bees emerge from hibernation 6.5 days earlier for every degree of warming

Warmer springs are causing problems for bees in the UK, according to a new study from the University of Reading. They are waking up from hibernation earlier than usual, which can threaten pollination of important crops such as apples and pears.

Researchers found that for every degree Celsius increase in temperature, wild bees fly out of their nests an average of 6.5 days earlier. This can cause them to become out of sync with the plants they depend on, and they may not have enough food to pollinate crops effectively. As a result, farmers will have to use managed honeybees, which can increase costs and consequently increase the price of apples, pears and vegetables in supermarkets.

The study was conducted using more than 350,000 records of bees emerging from hibernation and examining 88 different species of wild bees over a period of four decades. The analysis showed that, on average, bee species emerge four days earlier per decade. Some bee species respond more sensitively to changes in temperature and therefore emerge earlier than others.

As winters are predicted to become warmer and wetter by 2070, spring will start even earlier and have a greater impact on bees. These changes in bee emergence will have a major impact on plants that rely heavily on pollination, such as apple trees. They may not be ready to bloom by the time the bees come out of hibernation.

To better understand how climate change is affecting fruit tree blooms and bee pollination, scientists have created the FruitWatch project. People are encouraged to report when fruit trees in their gardens and parks begin to bloom. This data will help researchers build a more comprehensive database on the impact of climate change on different ecosystems.

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