Bees and butterflies in mysterious decline

By Josephine Marcotty, The Star Tribune

In October Steve Ellis counted his losses.

The air was thick with the sound of buzzing bees and the smoke he used to keep them calm as, one by one, he pulled wooden trays from dozens of blue and white boxes. Some held a moving mass of bees. But in too many, the hexagonal spaces were empty.

“I lost 500 hives this summer,” he said.

Ellis and other beekeepers across the country say they know why they are facing astronomical losses of bees: agricultural insecticides. The companies that make the chemicals disagree, but they don’t dispute the problem. On average, beekeepers are losing 30 to 40 percent of their bees every year.

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