It’s been a while since I posted about bees. My post about Costa Rican bumblebees gets quite a few reads, and apparently it’s pollinator week! So I thought I’d go to an extreme place to find bees this time and post about Bombus polaris, an Arctic bumblebee.
I had a hard time finding anything on this cutie. I’m guessing it’s at least partly because research in the Arctic is expensive and it’s hard to get up there. Plus, I’m sure the Arctic is not the first place people think of when it comes to bumblebees and pollination!
However, I did find one study done in the ’70s on pollination of Arctic flowers at Ellesmere Island, Canada. Bombus polaris was one of the main pollinators of a number of plants such as the Arctic willow (Salix arctica) and the Arctic lousewort (Pedicularis arctica). But the main pollinators of Arctic flora? Flies!
Bombus polaris lives in a unique area of the world where the growing season is very short, there’s 24-hour sunlight, and temperatures might only rise to 10 degrees Celsius in the summer. To adjust to this cooler climate, Bombus polaris is fuzzier than temperate bumblebees and as a higher body temperature.
Recently there was a New York Times story on Arctic bumblebees. Perhaps with increasing interest in pollinators and effects of climate change, there will be more to report on this fuzzy critter in the near future!
Heinrich, B., & Vogt, F. D. (1993). Abdominal temperature regulation by Arctic bumblebees. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 66(2), 257-269.
Kevan, P. G. (1972). Insect pollination of high arctic flowers. The Journal of Ecology, pp. 831-847.
Wikipedia. Bombus polaris. Retrieved 22 June 2017 from: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombus_polaris.
Wikipedia. Climate of the Arctic. Retrieved 22 June 2017 from: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_the_Arctic.