OTTAWA - A massive new study of bumble bees has linked their rapid decline to climate change that is shrinking bee ranges across Europe and North America.

The study, published today in the journal Science, used 110 years worth of scientific data to reveal that the key pollinators are not migrating north like some other species as the climate warms, but are losing habitat in the south due to the heat.

Biologist Jeremy Kerr of the University of Ottawa says bees are being crushed in a kind of climate vice, quickly losing the ability to survive on the southern edges of their ranges while being slow to adapt and move north.

The study, the first of its magnitude, suggests bumble bees are losing nine kilometres of their southern ranges per year -- and the trend is the same across continents in the northern hemisphere.

Biologist Laurence Packer of York University says among the more than 800 bee species in Canada, bumble bees are key pollinators because they're active from spring until fall collecting pollens from a wide range of plant species.

The study took into account the impact of pesticides such as neonicotinoids, which are known to be harmful to bees, but found the declining bee populations pre-date the use of the insectide and track closely with changes in climate.