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We're Losing Bees But Can't Do Without Them

Pesticide levels that were previously thought to be safe for bees may actually be harmful to them. Adult bumble bees exposed to the pesticide spinosad have an impaired ability to forage for food. Spinosad is a natural pesticide derived from the bacteria Actinomycetes. It's used in over 30 countries, including North America, Canada and the UK, to combat common crop pests such as caterpillars and thrips. Bees are important pollinators of crops. In developed countries, about a third of human food relies on their pollination. Less dramatic effects on honey bees could be going unnoticed, and other species could also be affected.

Bumble bees that were exposed to spinosad during their larval development, in amounts that are the same as the amount of spinosad they?re likely to be exposed to in nature, took longer to find complex flowers. They bees also displayed "trembling," which impaired their ability to land on the flowers and enter the flower tubes. Besides exposure to pesticides, honey bees are being decimated by the varroa mite from Southeast Asia, which has killed or severely weakened an 40 to 60% of the honeybees in the United States during the past six months. More than 50% of the bees in California, which pollinate the state's almond crop, have died during the past six months.

The honeybee is the major carrier of pollen for seeded fruits and anything that grows on a vine, from apples to zucchini. Millions of acres of U.S. fruit, nut, vegetable, seed and legume crops depend on insect pollination, and 80% percent of insect crop pollination is done by honeybees. Crops that require bees for pollination are apples, avocados, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, oranges, grapefruit, sunflowers, tangerines and watermelon. In addition, beef and dairy products eat alfalfa, clover and other plants that require pollination.

Honeybees are ideal for pollination because they their hives can easily be moved to fields where they?re needed. They also pollinate a wide variety of crops.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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