The decline of the bumble bees and cuckoo bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Bombini) of Western and Central Europe

Andrzej Kosior a1c1, Waldemar Celary a2, Pawel Olejniczak a1, Jan Fijal a1, Wieslaw Król a1, Wojciech Solarz a1 and Piotr Plonka a1
a1 Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Mickiewicza 33, 31-120 Kraków, Poland
a2 Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals, Slawkowska 17, 31-016 Kraków, Poland

Article author query
kosior a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
celary w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
olejniczak p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
fijal j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
król w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
solarz w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
plonka p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


The bumble and cuckooo bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Bombini; Bombus spp. and Psithyrus spp., respectively) are important plant pollinators and any decline in numbers or species constitutes a significant threat both to biological diversity and to whole economies. The distribution, status and factors threatening all 60 known taxa (species and subspecies) of Bombini of 11 countries of Western and Central Europe (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland) were assessed from the beginning of the 20th century. The analysis was based on a literature review, unpublished data, personal communications, our own observations, and an expert review. The IUCN Red List categories were used for assessing the threat of extinction. Eighty per cent of taxa were threatened in at least one country of the region, and 30% of taxa were threatened throughout their range in the countries considered. More species went extinct per country in the second than in the first half of the 20th century, and four taxa went extinct in all 11 countries during 1951–2000. Amongst the factors adversely affecting the Bombini anthropogenic factors (particularly those associated with large-scale farming schemes) appear to be of greater importance than natural factors. To halt population declines and species extinctions it will be necessary to preserve aspects of traditional farming practices and for all Bombini to be afforded legal protection in all countries of the region. The implementation of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy is likely to have the greatest single impact upon pollinators in the near future.

(Published Online March 5 2007)
(Received November 19 2004)
(Revised March 17 2005)
(Accepted September 19 2005)

Key Words: Agriculture; Apidae; bees; Bombini; Bombus; Europe; Hymenoptera; pollinator loss; Psithyrus; threats.

c1 Correspondence: Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Mickiewicza 33, 31-120 Kraków, Poland. E-mail kosior@iop.krakow.pl