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Scientists probe honeybee losses
Sun, 06 Mar 2011 18:20:16 GMT
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Researchers are trying to identify the reasons behind honeybee colony collapse, which significantly affects the global agricultural market.

Mass deaths of honeybees affect more than 30 percent of bee colonies in the US and over 20 percent in some European countries, Reuters reported.

Scientists have found some probable causes of colony collapse disorder (CCD), such as blood-feeding parasites, bee viruses, fungi, pesticide exposure and decreased plant diversity, which leads to poor nutrition for honeybees.

"It's a complex interaction of several different factors that are causing bees to die, resulting in quick colony decline," said entomologist and chief researcher at the US Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, Maryland Jeff Pettis.

Some 52 of the world's 112 leading crops rely on pollination and honeybee losses can greatly affect the world economy as the value of insect pollination, mainly by bees, is put at about USD 212 billion.

Experts believe the increase in human population and the bee decline will lead to a global crisis with limited crops and soaring food prices.

No definite solution has been found for the problem but some scientists blame commercial agricultural pesticides such as clothianidin, which they believe is responsible for the death of millions of bees near farming areas.

Another threat can be parasites such as the varroa destructor, which clings to a bee, feeds on its blood and spreads dangerous viruses.

Major infestations can also be responsible for destroying beehives, as well as a combination of a virus and a fungus, which was found in all collapsed US colonies last year.

The viral-fungal combination can destroy the bee's memory or navigation functions.

This is while commercial apiaries are the main victims of honeybee colony collapse.

"Most of those reporting heavy losses run large operations and are focused on migratory pollination for their income," said small producer and owner of 700 hives in South Deerfield, Massachusetts Dan Conlon.

According to Keith Delaplane of the University of Georgia, early bee reports are poor throughout the US, including Georgia, which appears to be losing about one-third of its colonies.

Managed US hives were 2.68 million last summer, which is only about half of the country's five million hives tallied back in the 1940s, the United States Department of Agriculture announced.

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