College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

A world without bees is a world without chocolate

March 7, 2007

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From The San Francisco Chronicle [original URL]
By Alison Rood

When Professor Gordon Frankie wants to impress schoolchildren with the importance of bees, he lays out an array of foods such as berries, grapes, pears and chocolate alongside a couple of dried-out tortillas and rice cakes and asks them which foods they prefer.

"Invariably the kids go for the fruits and chocolate," he said. "Then I tell them: In a world without bees, the only choice they'd have would be the dried-out tortillas or rice cakes, since wheat and rice are self-pollinated. Even chocolate, from the cacao plant, depends on the pollination of bees. That gets their attention."

Frankie, an entomologist at UC Berkeley and a specialist in the behavior of native bees, has been the leader of a decadelong urban bee research project. By documenting bee diversity and populations in urban gardens throughout California, he's discovering which flowering plants attract native bees and determining whether urban gardens can support bees. He said the declining native bee population is comparable to global warming in terms of a potential ecological catastrophe.

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