The plight of the bees

Poor production
A frame from a honey bee hive.
MPR Photo/Ann Arbor Miller

Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem, but they're declining at alarming rates. It's called colony collapse and it affects humans more than you may think. Many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by bees and bees play a major role in the reproduction of wild plant communities.

Two preeminent bee researchers will join The Daily Circuit Wednesday to talk about why this is happening and what can be done to curb it.

Marla Spivak, director of the Bee Lab at the University of Minnesota, will join the discussion.

"Bees are in decline for three interconnected reasons," she said. "There are not enough flowers out there that secrete pollen and nectar, so the bees are not getting proper nutrition. Then, the flowers that they do encounter often are contaminated with pesticides. It's a combination of poor nutrition, pesticides and brood disease."

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Spivak hopes to create a bee center at the U of M.

"Bees are like a portal: When you start studying them you're learning about many different topics such as agriculture, pesticides, landscape diversity and food safety," she said.

Gene Robinson, director of the Institute for Genomic Biology and the University of Illinois Bee Research Facility, will also join the discussion. He recently came out with research showing personality in honey bees.