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Science and Environment

Federal Study To Try And Identify, Rectify Problem Of Disappearing Bees

Martin LaBar

The federal government will spend millions of dollars trying to figure out why honeybees and monarch butterflies are disappearing.

Purdue entomology professor Christian Krupke says the study—which will include several federal agencies-- is long overdue.

He says the consensus is that there are a number of factors that have led to the decline of honeybees.

"Pathogens, parasites, pesticides and habitat availability," says Krupke. "Which of those ranks first largely depends on where those particular bees reside."

A federal survey conducted last year showed beekeepers had lost 40-percent of their colonies, though some later recovered.

Federal agencies are spending millions of dollars introducing more flowers to federal land and making sure new housing doesn’t affect the habitat of bees and butterflies.

Krupke says the flowers are especially important, as their disappearance also leads to fewer bees.

"Honeybees eat two things - nectar and pollen," he says. "They need to get those from flowers. There is no other way, and if we imagine a world that is nothing but turf, nothing but grass, bees are not going to do very well there."                   

Krupke says he’s glad for the federal dollars, but it may be years before anyone knows whether efforts to save honeybees are working.

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