Get ready for a grim future where bees have shorter tongues

Thing happens, scientists blame global warming

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Opinion Humanity may have to live in a terrifying future where bumblebees have shorter tongues unless the menace of global warming can be abated, a new scientific study suggests.

Ace bumblebee researchers reveal to a flabbergasted world today, courtesy of the learned journal Science:

We found that in two alpine bumble bee species, decreases in tongue length have evolved over 40 years.

The scientists add:

Long-tongued pollinators specialize on flowers with deep corolla tubes, whereas shorter-tongued pollinators generalize across tube lengths ... Co-occurring flowers have not become shallower, nor are small-flowered plants more prolific.

It seems that the plucky bees have simply evolved so as to be able to feed off more types of flowers, apparently in response to a decline in the amount of flowers generally in the mountains (of Colorado, in this case). The result is that the bees are still doing fine with their shorter tongues. Well done those bees, then - this is actually a happy story.

But Science mag notes darkly:

Even if these bumblebees do okay, the flowers they used to specialize in might not. With shorter tongues the bees are not as efficient, and now that they visit many kinds of flowers, the pollen they transfer to the long-tubed flowers may not always be the right type ...

... such a negative effect on the flowers has yet to be documented ... that is something [the bee scientists] plan to look at next.

There's bound to be something bad happening here, and it will be found. Still, there's a ray of hope for those dreading the advent of a grim future world full of bumblebees with horrible short tongues:

It's not clear whether these results hold true for other bumblebees elsewhere in the world.



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