Declines of bees and butterflies over 15 years in a forested landscape.


Despite growing concerns about pollinator declines, evidence that this is a widespread problem affecting entire communities remains limited. There is a particular shortage of pollinator time series from relatively undisturbed natural habitats, such as forests, which are generally thought to provide refuge to biodiversity from anthropogenic stressors. Here, we present the results from standardized pollinator sampling over 15 years (2007–2022) at three relatively undisturbed forested locations in the southeastern United States. We observed significant declines in the richness (39%) and abundance (62.5%) of bees as well as the abundance of butterflies (57.6%) over this time period. Unexpectedly, we detected much stronger declines in the richness and abundance of above-ground-nesting bees (81.1% and 85.3%, respectively) compared with below-ground-nesting bees. Even after dropping the first or last year of sampling, which happened to yield the greatest and lowest numbers of pollinators, respectively, we still detected many of the same negative trends. Our results suggest that sharp declines in pollinators may not be limited to areas experiencing direct anthropogenic disturbances. Possible drivers in our system include increasing mean annual minimum temperatures near our study sites as well as an invasive wood-nesting ant that has become increasingly widespread and abundant in the region over the course of this study.

  • Citation: Ulyshen, Michael; Horn, Scott. 2023. Declines of bees and butterflies over 15 years in a forested landscape. Current Biology. 339: 1611-.
  • Keywords: Anthophilabio, diversity, insect declines, Lepidoptera, monitoring, population trends, semi-natural habitats
  • Posted Date: March 9, 2023
  • Modified Date: March 15, 2023
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