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Organic Consumers Association

Answer to Declining Bee Population Sought in N.D. Prairie

 Hannaford, N.D. - The wind races through the grass as Marla Spivak swings her insect net across a patch of thistles in a roadside ditch.

She kneels to carefully examine the catch.

"Lots of flies, there's a grasshopper, there's a dragonfly," Spivak said.

But no bees. And that's not surprising. The roadside ditch has a cornfield on one side and a just-harvested wheat field on the other. There's not much for bees to eat.

"In some of the locations where there's a lot of flowers you see a lot of very cool native bees," Spivak said. "But this one we call bad because we kind of presume we're not going to find a lot of native bees."

The University of Minnesota entomology professor is working with a graduate student to catalogue native bees found on different types of landscapes.

Spivak's work is one of several related studies in eastern North Dakota this summer. Researchers are trying to better understand why so many bees are dying all across the country.

North Dakota is a good place to do it because more than half the bees in the country are found in the Dakotas and western Minnesota. North Dakota leads the nation in honey production, and there are about 2.5 million bee colonies in the country.

Many of those bees are moved to California each winter. It takes 1.5 million colonies just to pollinate the almond crop each year.

The bee population has been in decline for many years. There were twice as many honey bee colonies in the 1950's as there are today.    


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