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Honey Bee Crisis Extends from US to Britain and Netherlands

By Sally Mmorton
Science News
September 28, 2006


A study by Jacobus Biesmeijer and William Kunin (Leeds
University), showing declines in pollinators and insect-pollinated plants in
Britain and Netherlands.

In July of 2006, an article appeared in La Monde, entitled, “The Number and
Variety of Pollinating Insects in Europe Are Diminishing Significantly.” It was
written by Christiane Galus. Rating hardly a blip on the radar of the
international mainstream news, this article passed through the maze of media
sources without notice by most of the world’s inhabitants. Since I was following
the Honey Bee Crisis in the US as well, I paid attention.

Here is an excerpt:

“A study conducted by Jacobus Biesmeijer and William Kunin (Leeds University,
United Kingdom) and a team of British, German, and Dutch researchers and
published in the July 21 issue of Science confirms that the threat is serious.

By studying different areas of Great Britain and the Netherlands, scientists
observed that wild bees have paid the heaviest toll, with a 52% reduction in
their diversity with respect to their situation in 1980 in Great Britain and a
67% reduction in the Netherlands…”

Now, those are two disturbing sentences, and it prompted me to go search current
science news and read the scientific study cited. In conducting the
investigatory scientific study, the team of scientists considered more than one
million data points. Here is an excerpt from the abstract:

“…we found evidence of declines (pre-versus-post-1980) in local bee diversity in
both countries… pollinator declines were most frequent in habitat and flower
specialists, in univoltine species, and/or in nonmigrants. In conjunction with
this evidence, outcrossing plant species that are reliant on the declining
pollinators have themselves declined relative to other plant species. Taken
together, these findings strongly suggest a causal connection…”

See "Parallel Declines in Pollinators and Insect-Pollinated Plants in Britain
and the Netherlands" (Science, 21 July 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5785, pp. 351 – 354).
You may listen to the Science Podcast, ”Pollination in Trouble,” an Interview
with Dr. William “Bill” Kunin, University of Leeds, a co-author of the study.

A transcript excerpt from the interview:

“…there were not only fewer species, there were different species, and that’s
part of what raised concern…they tended to be losing habitat specialists, diet
specialists, all the sort of specialist bees and hover flies, and the
generalists were increasing. And then…we started looking at plants…we were
surprised to see a pretty strong pattern of decline in the vast majority of the
insect-pollinated plants…while the wind-pollinated plants and the
self-pollinated plants were either stable or increasing…”

When asked, “How worried should we be about this?” Dr. Kunin said it did not
imply a global pollinator crisis, however:

“…It’s the first time anyone’s looked for national-scale declines in pollinators
and in both the countries we looked for it, it was there…I’d be surprised if
there aren’t some similar patterns elsewhere, but again, people have to go look
for them.”

One can only hope that similar studies will immediately commence in the US,
Canada, and other countries.

 

 

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