bees

Pollinators such as bees play a key part of producing the beans that go into your morning cup of coffee.

In fact, they are responsible for about 20 to 25 percent of coffee production by increasing the plants' yield, Taylor Ricketts, the director of the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment, tells The Two-Way. Bees actually increase the quality of the beans by making their size more uniform.

Wild bees, such as bumblebees, don't get as much love as honeybees, but they should. They play just as crucial a role in pollinating many fruits, vegetables and wildflowers, and compared to managed colonies of honeybees, they're in much greater jeopardy.

It's planting time in America. Farmers are spending long days on their tractors, pulling massive planters across millions of acres of farmland, dropping corn and soybean seeds into the ground.

Near Esparto, in the beautiful Capay Valley region of central California, 1,400 young almond trees flourish in a century-old orchard overlooking the hills. Since November, they've stood in perfect rows without a hint of foliage — resting, naked and dormant, for the upcoming growing season. Their branches now swell with bright pastel blooms in preparation for pollination.

You know those nasty brown spots that can ruin an otherwise perfectly delicious apple? Those spots and other problems — like blossom blight and yellow leaves — are often caused by fungi. Apple growers usually fight back with fungicides, but a new study has found that those fungicides could be hurting honey bees.

"The long-standing assumption is that fungicides won't be toxic to insects," says May Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

SERGEY LAVRENTEV, 123RF STOCK PHOTO

  Beekeeping schools are popping up across the commonwealth starting this weekend, teaching beginner to expert level courses how to raise honeybees.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the rusty patched bumblebee an endangered species — the first such designation for a bumblebee and for a bee species in the continental U.S.

The protected status, which goes into effect on Feb. 10, includes requirements for federal protections and the development of a recovery plan. It also means that states with habitats for this species are eligible for federal funds.

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  Western Kentucky University is hosting a three-day seminar dedicated to one of the fastest growing industries in Kentucky. About 400 beekeepers from a half dozen Midwest states are in Bowling Green through Saturday. Heartland Bee-Keepers Association president.

Sergey Lavrentev, 123rf Stock Photo

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is planning a second public forum on the state's plan to protect pollinators such as honey bees.

Flowers generate weak electric fields, and a new study shows that bumblebees can actually sense those electric fields using the tiny hairs on their fuzzy little bodies.

"The bumblebees can feel that hair bend and use that feeling to tell the difference between flowers," says Gregory Sutton, a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

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