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How many bees do we actually need? Nobody seems to know. Plus, stem cell research is finally put to the test

By Philip Ball   March 2009

Will there be honey still for tea?

When should we start panicking about the bees? Einstein’s often-quoted claim that without bees humankind would have only four years left is almost certainly invented, but his authority isn’t needed to make the crisis real. Bee populations are being devastated worldwide. Three of Britain’s 25 bumblebee species are now extinct, with seven more threatened. In the US, much crop pollination is now carried out by commercial, mobile bee colonies, which are themselves in a parlous state. In China, too many pesticides mean fruit trees are now often hand pollinated.

Everyone agrees that bees…

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