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Beleaguered Bees Practice Self-Defense

We're still losing our bees--to the mysterious plague known as CCD or colony collapse disorder AND to pesticides. We not only need bees to pollinate our crops, we need BATS too (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to these incredible Linda Howe reports). Recent declines of bat populations caused by a new wildlife disease and fatalities at industrial-scale wind turbines could lead to substantial economic losses on the farm. Bees may be succumbing to the mites or fungus that cause CCD, but they are learning to protect themselves from pesticides: In examining honeybee hives, his team found cells containing pollen with high levels of pesticide have been sealed off by the bees using a waxy substance. But this brave attempt does not always work--hives that have large numbers of sealed-off cells ALSO have the most CCD. On PhysOrg.com, Deborah Braconnier reports that bee expert Jeffrey Pettis thinks bee deaths are due to the "3-P principle"-- poor nutrition (due to large farms growing only a single crop), pesticides, and pathogens.

Natural pest-control services provided by insect-eating bats in the United States likely save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year, and yet bats are among the most overlooked economically important, non-domesticated animals in North America. USGS research scientist Paul Cryan says, "People often ask why we should care about bats. Bats are saving us big bucks by gobbling up insects that eat or damage our crops. It is obviously beneficial that insectivorous bats are patrolling the skies at night above our fields and forests--these bats deserve help." Researcher Justin Boyles says, “Bats eat tremendous quantities of flying pest insects, so the loss of bats is likely to have long-term effects on agricultural and ecological systems." It's estimated that the value of the pest-control services to agriculture provided by bats in the US alone range from a low of $3.7 billion to a high of $53 billion a year.

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