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Bees Get Stung by Changing Climate

Honey bees and plants depend on each other, but will they adapt in sync as the climate changes?Toni Burnham loves honeybees. And for good reason. They pollinate 70 percent of the top 100 food crops.

BURNHAM: “If you think about what pollination is, it’s a total trip. “Hi, I’m a flower, and I’m going to depend on a species that isn’t even in the same kingdom as I am in order to have babies.”

President of the Washington D.C. Beekeepers Alliance, Burnham has 20,000 bees of her own.

Pollinators and plants have close relationships. Some pollinators only mature from larva to adult when flower nectar begins to flow. But others react to different cues – for example, the insect may become active when temperatures warm, while the plant begins flowering when the snow melts.

Much is unknown about the relationship between bees and flowering plants. So some may adapt to climate change together, but others may not, possibly putting both species at risk. For beekeepers, that makes it hard to know what resources to give bees – and when.

BURNHAM: “The extremes of rainfall and the extremes of drying that seem to be related to global warming are having a very nasty effect on how we can predict what our bees will need and how we can respond to what our bees will need.”

That means bee colonies could be both an indicator and a casualty of global warming.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Justin Bull. Photo: Copyright protected.

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