Sunday, 6 July 2014

Bye bye big bee: In South America, the world's largest bumblebee is at risk from imported rivals

It is believed to be the largest in the world – with queens likened to "flying mice". But a bumblebee once common in South America is heading for extinction, scientists fear, as European invaders mass on the doorstep of its last known stronghold.

Bombus dahlbomii – described by British scientist Dave Goulson as "a monstrous fluffy ginger beast" in his best-selling book A Sting in the Tale – has almost disappeared since a buff-tailed bumblebee was imported into Chile in the mid-1990s.

Experts believe it is likely the buff-tails brought diseases to which dahlbomii has no resistance, in a grim echo of what happened when European humans first arrived in the Americas and infection killed millions of the indigenous inhabitants.

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