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Powdermill researchers to study ‘alarming’ decline of bees

January 24, 2011 Comments off

By Rick Wills

As four previously abundant bumblebee species near extinction in the United States, it is becoming clear how little is known about native bees — which experts say often are more efficient at pollinating some crops than honeybees.

The Powdermill Nature Reserve in Westmoreland County, part of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, plans to take a hard look at native bees.

“There are 20,000 species of bees in the world, and we know almost nothing about native pollinators,” said John Wenzel, director of the Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management, the second of five Powdermill centers that opened recently. “We have only scratched the surface.”

A Penn State study released last month confirmed agriculturally important bumblebees are not just disappearing here but worldwide. Researchers called the findings “alarming.”

“The disappearance of these species happened very quickly, and no one really knows why,” Wenzell said.

The study found that native pollinators, like wild bees and wasps, are infected by the same viral diseases as honeybees and that these viruses are transmitted via pollen. Read more…