SEGUIN -- Roughly 30 percent of bees in North America die off each year. One factor may be the toxic pesticides used on crops.

A coalition of beekeepers and environmental groups has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for allowing the registration of those toxic chemicals to continue.

Local beekeeper Mark Gretchen said there are many hazards to bee husbandry from mites and parasites to Texas drought conditions.

Gretchen has a few new queens in his life, and he s introducing them to millions of his friends in hives that dot the Guadalupe County landscape.

Over about a week s time the hive will become accustomed to her scent, and be more likely to accept her, Gretchen said, as he placed one of the queens into a hive.

Gretchen makes local honey and helps local farmers by providing the insects needed to pollinate their crops.

It s been estimated that about two-thirds of our food that we have in our home comes from bees: squash, cantaloupes, lots of berries and almonds come from bees, Gretchen said.

Gretchen said the buzz in the beekeeping world is the lawsuit, filed March 21, 2013. The suit against the EPA targets clothianidin and another compound, thiamethoxam, which are in the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids.

These chemicals are taken back to the hive through the collected pollen. The pesticide residue can poison the queen and hurt the bees homing ability.

If you think about it, a pesticide is supposed to kill bugs. Unfortunately it kills good bugs along with the bad ones, Gretchen said.

According to the suit, more than 100-million acres of farms and orchards are sprayed with the toxic stuff.

The suit contends that when bees are killed, it can affect the production of certain fruits and vegetables, which can drive up consumer prices.

Already honey prices have increased 50 percent since 2008 -- the first item in the supermarket to feel the sting.

Bees are more expensive and more difficult to maintain year to year. And those prices are just being passed along, said Gretchen.

Bayer CropScience, the maker of clothianidin, is defending its pesticide, saying when used properly, the impact on bees is negligible.
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