This week brought the sad news of another possible extinction--this time of Franklin's bumblebee, once endemic to southern Oregon and northern California. (Hat tip: John Platt.) Recent surveys have failed to sight any Franklin's bumblebees and only a single worker bee was seen last year.
Recently, NRDC's Magazine On Earth featured a cover story about the mysterious disappearance bees across the United States. The potential economic consequences of this "vanishing" are profound (bumblebees pollinate an estimated 15 percent of crops grown in the United States) and the loss of ecological diversity enormous. Nor is it only bumblebees that are effected. Last spring, beekeepers across the United States reported loosing between 50 and 90 percent of their honeybees to what some have called "Colony Collapse Disorder." Since then, suspicious have focused on Israel Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) as one possible cause, but the truth is that scientists still aren't sure why our bees are disappearing at such frightening speeds.
Whatever the cause, however, it's too late for Franklin's bumblebee.
Emily Dickinson wrote that the bee
Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.
Goodbye Bombus franklini.