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Bees' effect on U.K. crops studied
by Staff Writers
Reading, England (UPI) Jul 1, 2011

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A U.K. study found a decline in honeybee numbers isn't affecting agricultural production, with researchers saying other insects may be providing pollination.

"For decades now we have assumed that honeybees have been providing the majority of pollination services to these systems but have very limited evidence to base this assumption on," study author Tom Breeze of the University of Reading said.

When the number of hives present in the United Kingdom was compared to the numbers research suggests are required to optimize crop yields, it was found the country has only about a third of the honeybees it needs, the study in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment said.

"You would think that such a severe deficit in honeybees would cause massive loss of crop productivity" researcher Simon Potts said. "However, examining yields of these crops since the 80's, they have just kept going up. While some of that is down to better production systems, other species have probably stepped in to fill the gap left by honeybees."

Researchers say the study demonstrates the need to examine what benefits British crop growers are gaining from the country's 250 species of wild bees, many of which are now threatened by intensive agricultural practices.

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