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09/01/2007 02:00:00 AM

The pesticide Gaucho (imidacloprid) was a suspect, and the government banned it, but no clear link was established.

In Germany, where beekeepers have recently lost 25 percent of their hives, one study implicates crops genetically modified for a gene for the insecticidal toxin Bcaillus thuringiensis. But on March 27, the American CCD Consortium stated that it had found “no evidence thus far of any lethal or sub-lethal effects of Bt proteins on honeybees.”

Whatever the causes of CCD, the crisis is of a magnitude sufficiently great to raise serious questions about depending so heavily on a single species—Apis mellifera—to pollinate so many of the crops on which we depend.

Growers might consider diversifying the number of pollinating species to get the job done. The honeybee is but one of more than 30,000 species of bee, most of which live solitary lives but, like the honeybee, visit flowers for pollen and nectar. Many bees native to North America have the potential to assist in pollinating crops, though in only a few cases have the specifics of bee husbandry been worked out.

In Butte County, researchers are actively investigating the potential of the blue orchard bee to pollinate almonds. Because this bee nests solitarily, beekeeping techniques will necessarily differ from those for the honeybee.

The blue orchard bee is a more efficient carrier of pollen and more active in cold weather. And, perhaps best of all, the blue orchard bee does not suffer from colony collapse disorder.

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