WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- A U.S.-led international team of scientists says it's identified nearly 19,500 bee species worldwide, which is about 2,000 more than previously estimated.
Research leader Michael Ruggiero of the U.S. National Museum of Natural History said the ongoing "colony collapse disorder" -- an unexplained phenomenon that's wiping out colonies of honey bees across the United States -- highlights the need for such a worldwide checklist of bees and more information about bee species and their interactions with the plants they pollinate.
"At a time when biological diversity is suspected to be declining at an alarming rate, it is important to have a solid baseline from which to measure future trends," said Ruggiero. "This is very exciting because bees are critical for pollinating flowering plants, including most non-cereal food crops."
Ruggiero said the bee checklist acts as a taxonomic "Rosetta Stone" that will enhance communication, information exchange and data repatriation about bees. "The completed checklist is a first step in modeling and forecasting future population trends," he added.
The study included researchers from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Denmark, Japan, South Africa and the United States.