It is estimated that one in three mouthfuls of what we eat is dependent on honey bee pollination, with bees central to fresh produce production. Some crops such as top fruit - apples, pears and plums - depend up to 90% on bees for pollination. For soft fruits such as raspberries and strawberries, up to 30% is down to bee pollination, while for runner beans it's 40%. Vegetables also depend on bees to 'set' their seeds for next year's crop.
But bees are at risk from disease, from the blood-sucking mite varroa to the fungus nosema ceranae and now colony collapse disorder (CCD) in the US.
In the UK, where the arrival of CCD will compound the many unresolved existing problems beekeepers are facing, Defra minister Lord Rooker has already warned in the House of Lords that the nation's honeybees could be wiped out without further research into bee health. Yet he has said the government cannot afford the £8m over five years the BBKA is petitioning for. Over the same period pollination will contribute more than £800m to the economy.