Native California Bees, Crops Vanishing

By Chris Roberts
|  Tuesday, Jun 28, 2011  |  Updated 2:58 PM PDT
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Native California Bees, Crops Vanishing

Sue Sawa

Catastrophic die-outs of these honeybees has made headlines in the past, but gone less-noticed is the decline in native California bees, which fertilize between 35 and 39 percent of California’s crops and contribute at least $1 billion to the state's econony, according to a study conducted by UC Berkeley researchers.

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As the state's wild and native areas disppear, turned from California pastures to California strip malls and suburbs, so too are the state's native bumble bees disappearing.

Which means that the state's food supply -- as in food for people -- could disappear, too.

Already many California farms rely on imported European honeybees to pollinate crops, the Bay Citizen reported. Catastrophic die-outs of these honeybees has made headlines in the past, but gone less-noticed is the decline in native California bees, which fertilize between 35 and 39 percent of California’s crops and contribute at least $1 billion to the state's econony, according to a study conducted by UC Berkeley researchers.

The foreign bees are susceptible to disease, pesticide use and other stressors. The native bees appear hardier, but not without an ample food supply, which is exactly what land development threatens.

When pastures are paved over to become suburbs or plowed over and planted with a single crop like wine grapes, the area loses its "nutritional diversity," according to Claire Kremen, one of the researchers. Similar to a human eating "big Macs day and night," without a variety of plants, native bees suffer and die.

Everyday people can reduce threats to the bee population by reducing pesticide use in their home gardens, but the greatest threat is pasture and rangeland converted into another use "for economic value."

Tens of thousands of acres of rangeland are lost every year in California. Without bees, there will be no crops. And without crops, there will be no food, for bees, humans or anyting else.

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