The Truth About Bee Tongue Length And Climate Change

Posted: Sep 25 2015, 3:47am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 26 2015, 7:33pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


The Truth about Bee Tongue Length and Climate Change
Queen bumble bee, Bombus balteatus, is foraging on Oxytropis sericea flowers on the alpine tundra of Pennsylvania Mountain. Photo Credit: Christine Carson

Bees are extremely sensitive to environmental changes. They are essential for farming though. Now scientists have found another link between climate change and bees.

Science finds a connection between Bee's tongue length and climate change.

Climate changes in flower diversity have resulted in a decrease in the length of alpine bumble bees' tongues. This surprising observation is preventing the bumble bees feeding from and pollinating the flowers with deep blossoms.

Recent studies suggest that long-tongued bumble bees are declining in number. Researcher Nicole Miller-Struthman et al. went on a mission to find out why this is the case. 

She visited high-altitude sites in Colorado where two species of long-tongued alpine bumble bee have their habitat.

Miller-Struthman was comparing bumble bee specimens that have been collected from 1966 through 1980, and from 2012 through 2014.

Comparing the length of the tongues revealed that today's bumble bees have significant shorter ones.

Hunting down the reason for the dramatic change in a body part of the bees, the scientists have honed on the warming summers.

The warmer summers have reduced the number of the deep flowers. This forced the bumble bees to feed on shallow ​flowers.

It is very surprising that in the rather short period of less than 50 years, an insect is adjusting the way it's body grows.

Bee Tongue

Queen bumble bee, Bombus balteatus, is on flowers of the alpine wildflower, Castilleja occidentalis. Photo Credit: Ed Guerrant

This finding shows how complex the effects of climate change are in nature. Maybe humans also have to evolve someday to adjust to a new climate. Maybe we grow back a fur to survive the next ice age.

The results of the study are published in a paper titled "Functional mismatch in a bumble bee pollination mutualism under climate change" on AAAS's Science.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Luigi Lugmayr () is the founding chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 15 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology magazine.
Luigi can be contacted directly at




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