| PRINCETON, New
Jersey, December 20, 2002 (ENS): Intensive, industrial
scale farming may be damaging native bee populations,
a natural resource useful for pollination.
A new study shows that native bee populations plummet
as agricultural intensity goes up. In farms studied
in and around the Sacramento Valley in California, concentrated
farming appeared to reduce bee populations by eliminating
natural habitats and poisoning them with pesticides,
the researchers reported.
Most farmers depend on imported, rented bees, which
are in decline because of disease and heavy pesticide
use. The study, published in a recent "Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences," found that
native bees are capable of doing a lot more pollinating
than previously believed. But it would take careful
land use to take advantage of that capacity, the researchers
concluded, because current high density, pesticide-dependent
agriculture cannot support native bees.
Suppressing the many species of native bees and relying
on just a few species of imported ones may be risky.
Farmers who use managed bee populations - that is, most
commercial farmers - depend on fewer than 11 species
out of the 20,000 to 30,000 bee species worldwide.
Other researchers have estimated that $5 billion to
$14 billion worth of U.S. crops are pollinated by a
single species of bee, the European honey bee.
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