North American bee species face extinction

Gina Cherelus

More than 700 of the 4,000 native bee species in North America and Hawaii are believed to be inching towards extinction because of pesticide use leading to loss of habitat, a scientific study shows.

The Center for Biological Diversity's report concluded that of the 1,437 native bee species for which there was sufficient data to evaluate, about 749 of them were declining. Some 347 of the species, which play a vital role in plant pollination, are imperiled and at risk of extinction, the study found.

"It's a quiet but staggering crisis unfolding right under our noses that illuminates the unacceptably high cost of our careless addiction to pesticides and monoculture farming," its author, Kelsey Kopec, said in a statement.

Habitat loss, along with heavy pesticide use, climate change and increasing urbanisation are the main causes for declining bee populations, the study found.

Bees provide valuable services: the pollination furnished by various insects in the US, mostly by bees, has been valued at an estimated $US3 billion each year.

The centre's Kopec noted that almost 90 per cent of wild plants are dependent on insect pollination.

"If we don't act to save these remarkable creatures, our world will be a less colourful and more lonesome place," she said.