Fears of global decline in bees dismissed as demand for honey grows

The threat of a world without bees has been described as more serious than climate change. But world honeybee colonies have actually increased by almost half over the past 50 years, according to an analysis of U.N. figures.

While bees have been dying out in Britain, Europe and the U.S., managed bee numbers worldwide having been thriving because of global demand for honey, biologists suggest in the journal Current Biology.

They also say that the bulk of agriculture, including wheat and rice, does not rely on pollination.

However, the growing popularity of expensive crops which need to be pollinated by bees has outstripped the growth in bee numbers, they find. This could lead to shortages in fruits like raspberries, plums, cherries and mangoes as well as Brazil and cashew nuts, they suggest.

"The honeybee decline observed in the U.S.A. and in other European countries including Great Britain, which has been attributed in part to parasitic mites and more recently to colony collapse disorder, could be misguiding us to think that this is a global phenomenon," said Marcelo Aizen, of Universidad Nacional del Comahue in Argentina. "We found here that is not the case."

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