"Conservation groups said four species of native bumblebees are close to extinction and called on the federal government Tuesday to begin regulating the shipping of bees raised commercially as crop pollinators.
Researchers believe the precipitous declines in the species are being caused by diseases linked to the cultivation of a species of native bumblebee sold to farmers. The bees are used to increase fruit yield in a number of crops, including hothouse tomatoes and field-grown raspberries and blueberries.
During the past decade, wild bee species "went from being -- some of them -- very common to species that are now going extinct," said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. "
Adrian Higgins reports for the Washington Post January 13, 2010.