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Published on Jul 29, 2012
Bees, via pollination, are responsible for 15 to 30 percent of the food U.S. consumers eat. But in the last 50 years the domesticated honeybee population—which most farmers depend on for pollination—has declined by about 50 percent, scientists say.
Unless actions are taken to slow the decline of domesticated honeybees and augment their populations with wild bees, many fruits and vegetables may disappear from the food supply, said Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at Princeton University in New Jersey.
Anecdotes of farmers losing their crops owing to the honeybee shortage appear to be on the increase, Kremen said. Last February, for example, there were insufficient honeybees for all the almond blossoms in California. As a result some farmers failed to meet expected yields.
"There are shortages [like this] that pop up from time to time," Kremen said. "Whether there are more [shortages] than there were 20 years ago, one would guess yes, as there are fewer bees to go around, but it's not well documented."
Maryann Frazier, a senior extension associate in the department of entomology with Pennsylvania State University in State College, said honeybee shortages are not yet impacting commercial producers of crops, but that community farmers "are struggling to get bees for pollination."