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Page last updated at 16:07 GMT, Friday, 16 July 2010 17:07 UK

York scientists probe huge fall in bee numbers

Nick Morris
Reporter, Politics Show for Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the North Midlands

Bees

The National Bee Unit near York is at the forefront of government efforts to arrest the decline of bees.

Scientists based near York are investigating why there has been a dramatic decline in honeybee numbers.

Bees are a vital part of the food chain as they pollinate most commercially grown fruit and vegetables.

The Government has earmarked ten million pounds for the UK-wide research coordinated by the National Bee Unit.

The UK has seen a decline of up to 35 per cent of its honey bees but other countries are losing even more.

Bees make money

Most of the staple foods grown in the UK such as grain and potatoes are either self pollinating or pollen is blown in the wind. But flying insects, particularly honeybees, are an essential element of the growing cycle for most fruits and vegetables.

It means the economic value of bees to the agriculture industry as pollinators is far higher than the honey and wax they produce.

The Government's Food and Environment Research Agency's National Bee Unit at Sand Hutton near York estimates that it would cost around £400 million to "hand pollinate" the UK's fruit and vegetable crops.

Mystery disappearance

The reduction in numbers has taken beekeepers and scientists by surprise. This is the first time that a co-ordinated approach is being taken to investigate the mystery.

Bee Experts
Experts in York say bees could be facing a variety of threats.

Research into how beekeepers manage their hives, weather conditions, pollution and disease is being carried out by separate teams at universities across the UK . The full picture is being monitored by the Government scientists in York.

Hive of activity

Other organisations are also helping the investigation including farmers, schools and landowners like the National Trust.

The BBC's local radio stations at York, Leeds, Sheffield, Lincoln and Hull have also "adopted" their own hives and produce regular updates on the health of their bees in programmes and on their web pages.

See the full report on the Politics Show for Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the North Midlands this Sunday July 18th at 11.30 AM.



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