The publication of The Forgotten Pollinators by Stephen L. Buchman and Gary Paul Nabhan in 1997 first raised awareness about the decline of pollinators globally, especially tropical bat and bird species. More recently, the loss of honey bee colonies in the U.S. and parts of Europe due to colony collapse disorder and the 2007 publication, Status of Pollinators in North America, has raised further concern. What is going on here in the New York metropolitan region?

Apart from managed honey bees, there is increasing evidence that some wild bee species have experienced regional declines in North America, including the New York City area. These include Bombus affinis, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, and Bombus terricola, the Yellowbanded Bumble Bee, most likely due to the introduction of diseases and parasites. Another bumble bee that is believed to have declined is Bombus pensylvanicus, the American Bumble Bee, for unknown reasons, although habitat changes are thought to be a contributing factor. In addition, three species of Macropis oil bees appear to have drastically declined, possibly due to reductions in their host plants, native yellow loosestrife (genus Lysimachia). Unfortunately, the loss of these bee species will also result in the loss of parasitic bees that are dependent on them. For example, the cuckoo bee Epeoloides pilosula is an obligate parasite of Macropis oil bees, while Bombus ashtoni, the Ashton Cuckoo Bumble Bee, is an obligate parasite of Bombus affinis.

Although there is evidence for the decline of these and other species, it is not clear if there is a broad decline in all native bees. Despite a recent increase in studies of bees and other pollinators, the bottom line is that we still know very little about them.

Major threats to pollinators

Pollinators are beset by the same environmental challenges as other species. Read more

Conservation actions

What you can do to help pollinators. Read more

Survey and monitoring

The different types of studies used to assess the health of pollinator species and habitats. Read more.

Legal protection

A few regulations are in place at the international, national, regional, and state level. Read more