Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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20-Jul-2006

Contact: Science Press Package
scipak@aaas.org
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American Association for the Advancement of Science

Losing the bees and the flowers



What would a world without bees be like? Well, picnics would be easier no bee stings to worry about but it would a lot harder to fill that picnic basket. The plants that produce many of our fruits and vegetables depend on bees for pollination. So do plants that give us beautiful wildflowers and food for livestock.

So, to recap, bees: not so cuddly, but still important friends. A new study from Europe suggests that we need to pay close attention bees and the plants they pollinate, because both are disappearing in some places.

Jacobus Biesmeijer (yes, this is pronounced "Bees-meyer") of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and his colleagues compiled thousands of records of where people have spotted bees, hoverflies and various pollinated plants over recent decades in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Hoverflies make up another group of pollinating insects.

The researchers found that the diversity of bee and pollinated-plant species have both decreased since 1980. The hoverflies didn't show such a clear pattern. The researchers think this may be because the flies can pollinate a wider variety of plants, whereas the bees are more choosy.

It's too early to tell if the bees are disappearing because the plants are, or vice versa, but the researchers do think the two trends are linked to each other. The study appears in the 21 July issue of the journal Science.