Scientists worry about declining numbers of honeybees and other pollinators

Researchers are warning of a significant population decline in species that together pollinate three-quarters of all flowering North American plants, including more than 90 commercial crops. A study released yesterday by the National Research Council indicates a “demonstrably downward” trend in populations of birds, bees, bats, and other pollinating species. The American honeybee population has declined 30 percent in the last two decades; last year, American farmers imported honeybees for the first time since 1922. European researchers have also documented a significant decline in pollinators. Contributing factors, says an NRC panel, include introduced parasites, pesticides, habitat loss, and possibly global warming. “Despite its apparent lack of marquee appeal, a decline in pollinator populations is one form of global change that actually has credible potential to alter the shape and structure of terrestrial ecosystems,” says NRC panel chair May R. Berenbaum.