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Seeking Causes of Honeybee Loss



From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

New studies have found that a chemical commonly used to fight plant disease is harming honeybees. Experts say the chemical may be partly to blame for the widespread loss of honeybees in the United States. The insects are important to farmers. When a honeybee lands on a flowering plant, pollen sticks to its legs. When the bee lands on another flower, some of the pollen falls off and fertilizes the second plant. The act of pollination is important to the growth of many fruits, vegetables, nuts and other crops. Yet about 30 percent of honeybees in the United States and other areas have died in recent years.

Dennis VanEngelsdorp is a researcher at the University of Maryland. He wants to learn why so many bees are dying. His research team examined pollen grains that honeybees carried to their hives. They found that the pollen contained high levels of 35 different pesticides -- chemicals used to kill insects. They also found that bees that ate some fungicides became infected with a deadly microorganism called Nosema. Fungicides are used to protect against fungi and are widely used for agriculture purposes in the United States.

Mike Leggett studies pesticides for the pest management industry group CropLife America. He says many of the pesticides found in the pollen examined by Dennis VanEngelsdorp actually protect bees from Nosema. Honeybees are important to agriculture. This makes the search for an answer to their deaths especially urgent for Mr. VanEngelsdorp's team. As he notes, one in every three bites of food we eat is somehow pollinated by honeybees.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman.