Bee spotted in Canada points to climate change impacts

A bee species recorded for the first time in Canada by University of Guelph researchers may provide further evidence that critical pollinators and other creatures are widening their natural ranges under climate change.

The team members also say this first-ever Canadian sighting of the American migrant underlines the importance of maintaining a unique habitat in Ontario that has shrunk to a sliver of its historical size under urbanization, farming and other human activities.

In a paper published recently in the Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario, the researchers describe their first-ever Canadian record of the hibiscus bee (Ptilothrix bombiformis).

Janean Sharkey, a master’s student in the School of Environmental Sciences, wrote the paper along with Dr. Alana Pindar, a post-doc researcher in SES, and Dr. Nigel Raine, holder of the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation at U of G.

The bee was found in the Ojibway Prairie Park Nature Reserve (OPPNR) in Windsor, Ont., in 2018.

Sharkey said the find may mean the bee has taken advantage of climate change to expand its normal range from the eastern United States, although more research is needed to learn more.

The OPPNR, a 65-hectare provincial park, is one of the largest remnants of oak savannah habitat in Canada. Despite its small size, it is considered a biodiversity “hot spot.”

“It should definitely be a priority for conservation,” said Sharkey. “This area has a suite of other species of insects and larger animals and plants that are endangered and can only be found in these communities.”

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