Q Are honeybees really endangered?
A Many observers believe they are. There have been reports in recent years of a mysterious decline in honeybee populations worldwide. Experts have identified a syndrome, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which a healthy colony loses most of its adult bees in a very short time.
Q What's causing this?
A Modern land-use practices, both agricultural and urban, said University of Minnesota entomologist Marla Spivak. Bees have less access to the flowers they need for nutrition, and more exposure to pesticides and herbicides, both of which have made them more vulnerable to parasites. There are no longer enough wild, native bees for pollination purposes, she said. "We've disturbed things to such an extent that we have to bring in bees. This should be a wake-up call for humans."
Q What can average homeowners and gardeners do?
A "Reduce use of pesticides and plant flowers," Spivak said. Not just any flowers, but pollen- and nectar-rich native species. For detailed plant lists, go to www.nappc.org, run by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, or www.xerces.org.
Q What if you want to start keeping honeybees yourself?
A It's too late this season to start, Spivak said, but you can sign up for a class to prepare for next spring. The university offers a course for beginners in March (www.extension.umn.edu/honeybees). You can also read books about beekeeping, pair up with an experienced beekeeper and/or attend meetings of the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association, which meets from 7 to 9 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month on the university's St. Paul campus. (For more information, visit www.mnbeekeepers.com.)