Buzz Kill: Wild Bees and Flowers Disappearing, Study Says

July 21, 2006

Parents may soon be telling their kids about the birds and the ... birds.

Bees—and the flowers they pollinate—are disappearing, according to a new study of bee diversity. The results raise concerns about food crops and plant communities that rely on animal pollinators to reproduce.

Scientists compared a million records on bees from hundreds of sites in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands before and after 1980.

They found that bee diversity has declined at nearly 80 percent of the sites.

"It's more dramatic than we thought it would be," said Jacobus Biesmeijer, who led the research team.

The finding—the first of its kind—confirms suspicions of a widespread pollinator decline gleaned from several single-species and local studies, according to Biesmeijer, an ecologist at the University of Leeds in the U.K.

The scientists also looked at another type of pollinator, the hoverfly. Hoverflies, they found, are holding steady in Britain and gaining slightly in the Netherlands.

Bees and hoverflies that pollinate a limited range of flowers or have specific habitat needs experienced the greatest loss. Generalist pollinators are dominating.

"This is the first case where we really now have large-scale data showing that—at least in these two countries—there's really something going on," Biesmeijer said.

"Especially with the bees, things are not looking very good."

Biesmeijer and colleagues report their findings in today's issue of the journal Science.

Domino Effect

Continued on Next Page >>




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