back to article Get ready for a grim future where bees have shorter tongues

Humanity may have to live in a terrifying future where bumblebees have shorter tongues unless the menace of global warming can be abated, a new scientific study suggests. Ace bumblebee researchers reveal to a flabbergasted world today, courtesy of the learned journal Science: We found that in two alpine bumble bee species, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can I be the first to ask who in their right mind 40 years ago decided to start measuring bumble bee tongues and how did it come about?

    I'm certainly no boffin on Bee's but don't they transfer pollen with their legs as well anyway?

    1. Your alien overlord - fear me

      Tongues lick the nectar to keep them alive. Pollen is stashed on their legs by the plants to reproduce because God in his infinite wisdom 6000 years ago when creating this planet forgot to give plants legs so they could wander around reproducing by themselves (triffids are the exception here).

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge


    I've pointed out before that such research citing climate change counts towards the "scientific consensus". As funding for the work is generally predicated on the assumption that CC is real and proven this becomes a positive feedback loop supporting the consensus.

    Irrespective of ones views on climate change, this doesn't make for good science.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      Re: Concensus

      Indeed, and the increasing trend towards politics-driven scentific funding is not going to make things better in the future, nor is the sensationalistic trend in scientific journals. Work on bee tongue-length, get zero funding and publish in the Colorado Journal of Enthomology. Shoehorn climate change in, get funded and published in Science.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Climate change is real

      That is an undisputable fact.

      The only question is which way the change is going and why, and there are two staunchly opposed factions on the matter who will neither agree nor change their minds in a thousand years.

      But nobody can say that climate does not change.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Climate change is real

        "who will neither agree nor change their minds in a thousand years."

        Now you're being silly. A thousand years is the right sort of timescale to evaluate climate change.

        1. Daggerchild Silver badge

          Re: Climate change is real

          "Now you're being silly. A thousand years is the right sort of timescale to evaluate climate change."

          Actually, scientists studied whether you could fix a polarised discussion of this order. They fed them facts. It just made everything worse. The data was assimilated using whichever viewing angle supported existing beliefs. It was hopeless. This was not the result they expected.

          So no, even a thousand years isn't enough to fix polarised human disagreement over testable truths. It may just make it worse. Ask Jesus or Mohammed.

        2. Wzrd1

          Re: Climate change is real

          "A thousand years is the right sort of timescale to evaluate climate change."

          Bullshit, a century is more than enough to measure a change and find the cause.

          At a thousand years, should the current observations and computed changes occur, Old Blighty will be a tiny island at its highest point and most of the productive crop areas on this planet will be either inundated or drier than the central Sahara.

          If you want to take that risk for your progeny, I'd not have a problem with it, save for one thing.

          You're trying to drag my progeny into the same hell you want to experiment with.

          Therein, we have conflict.

          I'm no keyboard warrior.

    3. Wzrd1

      Re: Concensus

      Indeed, as climate change happens over centuries and longer, this claim is simply one thing; bullshit on rye, being called a Reuben sandwich.

      Now, if there was a provable claim that increased CO or CO2 caused, in controlled studies, shorter tongues on carpenter bees (US "bumblebees"), they *might* be onto something.

      Curves can be derived upon base exposures of various colonies. It's not like those bees are rare.

      That El Reg latched onto this, with a known anti-climate change bias that is due to sponsorship, yes, that is explainable.

      1. Mikel

        Re: Concensus

        Factually, no. The transitions from cold to warm and the reverse happen over a shockingly brief period of time. A 6c shift in decades is not only possible, but common. It is the gradual shift from our current temperate clime into the frost that is uncommon.

  3. Naughtyhorse

    thing happens, scientists postulate, page proselytises....

    didn't even need to read the article!


  4. Ilmarinen

    Oh no !

    "... such a negative effect on the flowers has yet to be documented ... that is something [the bee scientists] plan to look at next."

    Climate Change (tm) causes Policy Based Evidence Making!

    Will nobody think of the larvae?

  5. Spotthelemon

    fascist accuses others of fascism isn't unusual, just replace the Hippies with Jews and Lewis Page is undoubtedly a fascist but anyone who read his articles already knew that, his approach to science is identical to the NAZI view which dismissed any science they didn't like as Jewish science and as all right thinking people therefore laughable nonsense to be ridiculed

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      are you invoking godwins law?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      @ Spotthelemon

      And by replacing "Lewis Page" by "Jews" in your comment we can prove that you're a fascist. What was your point?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or... could be the fact peoples tastes in flowers has changed.

    Or is that to simple?

  7. JakeMS

    Correct me if I'm wrong but..

    Hasn't life on earth for millions of years gradually evolved and changed to match environment, lifestyle, food availability etc etc etc.

    In this case it's possibly this has absolutely diddly squat to do with global warming. This could just be natural evolution within the species that has been happening for long before humans started spitting bad stuff into the air.

    This quite literally could of happened even if humans didn't exist.. I don't think you can blame "global warming" for this one.

    Sure you could say they wouldn't have to 'evolve' if we didn't heat up the place.. but then they might have to evolve if some plants stop growing a new ones grow in their place.

    And this could be exactly what happened...

    This is the earth and life on it doing what it does: evolving and changing.

    This change is not made by humans.

    Next up: Global warming caused monkeys to turn into humans because of monkey emitted fart pollution!

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Correct me if I'm wrong but..

      Actually, the Earth biosphere *has* collapsed in a similar way before. At least one extinction they suspect was an exponential methane release from a methane-producing algae that got a sudden oceanful of its favourite elements due to a burst of volcanic activity. The climate went to hell in no time flat. The algae may have tried to use up all the oxygen in the sea at the same time. Large chunk of the biosphere just didn't make it.

      So yes, *maybe* we aren't causing it, but since it's looking like a duck, quacking like a duck, and destroying the environment like a duck, I reserve the right to look at your funny for deciding in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that it's not a duck.

    2. PhilBuk

      Re: Correct me if I'm wrong but..

      You're wrong - it's 'have' not 'of'' in:

      "This quite literally could of happened"

      For Pete's Sake!.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It appears that we will have to endure all the doom saying from the green blob for a few weeks more as they try and set the agenda for the UN climatefest and jamboree in Paris at the end of the year.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Where is a terrorist attack when you really need one?

      Can't use the joke Icon and remain anonymous, unfortunately!

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Given that bees and flowers have co-evolved over a very long period I'd expect that either (a) the longer tubed flower species will evolve to match the bees or (b) a new sub-species of bee will emerge to take advantage of a food source for which there is now less competition. Nature doesn't usually much on the table for very long.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Let be add a (c). The bees will bite through the base of long-tubed flowers to reach the nectar that way. It's known bee behaviour. In fact the team should have checked that this isn't happening as it could be the explanation. Not that this helps with the pollination.

      Sorry to bring a bit of biology into all your AGW & creationist arguments but I did start out as a botanist <mumble> years ago.

  10. Daggerchild Silver badge

    Snarking the dead

    Well, another article to snark at scientists and snigger that 'everyone knows' nothing bad will happen so they're wrong and wear glasses and smell.


    Seems bumbles aren't handling the whole 'everyone else is moving North to stay in their same temperature range' thing so well, so if you want to snark at bumblebees trying/failing to cope and just stay alive, at least put up a bumblebee nestbox. You owe them that much.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Contrary to what creationists will tell you the Earth is a dynamically evolving ecosystem that has been around for hundreds of millions of years and not a static environment that magically appeared in 4004BC. Evolution does not stand still and will continue pressing species forward to meet changes in the environment.

    Sorry to break this to you creationists but the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are a Grimms fairytale used to frighten children who know no better.

    1. Dan Paul

      Sorry to break it to YOU, "Deniers" aren't usually...

      creationists. The Four Horsemen as you call them are ALWAYS AGW proponents though.

      Being a climate skeptic usually requires some kind of understanding of the way the world really works.

      That is NOT a requirement to be a proponent of AGW.

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge

        Re: Sorry to break it to YOU, "Deniers" aren't usually...

        That is the most fantastic universal argument construct I've ever seen :)

        Chastise: Existence of members without some understanding

        Praise: High number of members with some understanding

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      What does your comment have to do with the article? Are you just here to bash those who don't believe what you do? Seriously, what difference would it make if creationists are wrong in their beliefs -- are you that insecure in what you believe?

      Focus on the science: what is observable, what can be shown by the scientific method. Debate, but don't ridicule.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @readinthereg


        It's absolutely focussing on the science. Global warmers will have you believe that it will spell the end of the planet however using the sciences of palaeontology and geology we know that the Earth has undergone many climate change periods and has continued to survive and so have species through evolution. It may spell the end of us but it won't be the end of life on earth and one species loss is another's gain, a classic example being the microbial production of oxygen and the rise of aerobic respiration.

        Ridiculous dogma and doctrine deserve ridicule.

  12. meanioni

    ..and in the miracle of natural selection, the flowers with shorter doobries which the bees can pollinate will thrive whilst the longer ones will die out.

    Ain't nature marvellous.

    Ain't scientists thick.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure the bees will be able to lick this problem.

  14. Little Mouse

    It's not just the bees that are changing. In the past 40 years I've grown noticeably taller. So have many of the people that I know.

    Open your eyes, people!

  15. Goopy

    So, basically

    No story here, because they really dont know. This link bait will be the death of of online "Journalism"

  16. livefree

    Honey-eaters are required to pay for more research. Science has spoken.

    Did they compare the average temperature from 1975 (or would it be the max? the min? that causes favorable genetic changes in bee tongues?) to today's average temperature? Is there anything else that could cause bee's tongue to change shape or size besides the amount of CO2 and cow farts produced in industrial societies and farms?

    Looks to me like there is much more research to do. How on earth will they get funded for this... I can't imagine.

  17. John Savard Silver badge

    Cause for Panic!

    It is true that whether or not bees have shorter tongues would seem to mean little to most of us. As noted, the study didn't yet get to the point of determining if some flowers would have more trouble being pollinated as a result.

    However, the important thing is that something changed. Where, for countless millions of years (at least a few thousand years, say after the glaciers retreated after the last ice age), bees did perfectly well in that region with their tongues the way they were, now, all of a sudden, clearly due to Man's tampering with nature, they have been altered by the force of natural selection (which means lots of bees dying a premature death because their tongues were too long for the new conditions).

    Even if we come to our senses, and switch to nuclear power to stop global warming without bad economic consequences, we still have to face the awful fact that the Earth can't be kept in pristine condition as a gigantic nature preserve while we struggle to feed upwards of seven billion people at the same time. I think this is bad because it might tempt people to try to slow down work on a cure for old age, and I'm not getting any younger.

  18. x 7

    Bad science

    Bumblebee tongue lengths have always been variable.

    I can remember as a child 50 years ago being shown by my father how some short-tongued bumblebees would bite into the back of runner and french beans to get at the nectar (so ruining the flower and preventing pollination) while others of apparently the same species would approach from the front and suck.

    We sat and watched it happen. Red flowers seemed to be hit more than white ones.....maybe they tasted better???

    FYI, my father used to "save" some of the flowers by hand pollinating them with a fine paintbrush, but thats hardly a large scale resolution

    It was a phenomenon known to lay people then - where is the news element now?

  19. i steal your leccy


    Mrs Bumblebee is going to bee very disappointed.

  20. Bob Armstrong

    I live at 2500 meters in the Colorado Front Range , with bountiful wild flowers including some only a humming bird tongue can service . Given our diurnal ~20c variation in temperature , year round , , a 0.8c , max , change in mean temperature since the steam engine is supposed to have caused our bees' tongues to have shortened , how much ?

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