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This Week on AGRICULTURE REPORT, the Buzz About Bees

I’m Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

More than ninety kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seed crops depend on bees for reproduction. Bees pollinate thousands of millions of dollars worth of crops.

The insects gather nectar liquid from flowers. As they do this, pollen sticks to the bees. Pollen is the reproductive material of flowers. As a bee travels from plant to plant, so does the pollen.

Beekeepers transport their colonies by truck to farms where crops need pollination. Pennsylvania State University estimates that the United States has about one hundred fifty thousand beekeepers.

Bees are good pollinators. But most people know them as producers of honey and wax.

In the United States, the Agriculture Department says more than two and one-half million colonies produced honey last year. Production increased one percent, though the number of colonies decreased two percent from two thousand three.

Honey can be stored, so producers can wait to sell when prices are up. But then prices fall as producers flood the market. That happened last year. Prices fell twenty-two percent after a good production year in two thousand three.

Between two and four colonies are needed to pollinate one hectare of most crops. Bees pollinate almost all almond and apple trees. Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, celery and onions require bee pollination.

Experts say even crops that do not require bee pollination can be increased with the help of bees. The quality of many crops depends on the amount of pollination they receive. Crops like apples can grow unevenly if bees do not provide enough pollen for good reproduction.

Honeybees can be killed by chemical poisons. But they also have a lot of natural enemies. In North and South America, Asia and Europe, mites can destroy hives. These tiny creatures suck the blood of bees. Varroa mites are a serious threat to honeybees. Tracheal mites are also a big problem; they live in the breathing tubes of bees.

Wax moths are insects that eat wax in the hive. Bacterial diseases also affect colonies. The bacteria that cause European and American foulbrood attack and destroy young bees.

Raising bees can be difficult. But many people like to keep bees as a business or simply for pleasure.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. Our reports are online at I'm Gwen Outen.