New York

Bee populations have declined in recent decades mainly due to a loss of biodiversity causing the disappearance of their favorite pollinating plants, according to a study published Monday. Researchers analyzed the pollen found on the bodies of insects from 57 different wild bee species collected before 1950 and held in natural history museums in the Netherlands. They found that the insects had certain preferred plants for pollinating. As their favored plants diminished, so too did domestic and wild bee populations, according to the study published in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “Decline of preferred host plants was a main factor associated with bee decline,” said the study led by Jeroen Scheper, an environmental specialist at the Alterra Research Institute in the Netherlands. The size of bees was also important, as larger bees required more pollen to survive.  “The other main factor associated with bee decline was bee body size, which was negatively related to population trend, likely because larger bees have a greater pollen requirement,” Scheper said.  Other, less important factors included the variety of the insect’s diet and sensitivity to climate change. The researchers said bees’ favorite plants should be replenished in order to restore numbers.