A bee collects pollen from the stamens of a flowering crocus.
A bee collects pollen from the stamens of a flowering crocus. - 
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Steve Chiotakis: Honeybee keepers in this country are reporting a crisis, and it seems to be getting worse. Some beekeepers are reporting extreme losses this year. And a new study out today suggests pesticides may play a bigger role than previously thought. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sarah Gardner reports.

Sarah Gardner: For several years now, a massive honeybee die-off has puzzled U.S. experts. They still don't know exactly what's causing it. Scientists meeting today in San Francisco will hear results of a new Penn State study showing "unprecedented levels" of pesticides in pollen and hives across the U.S.

Bee expert Eric Mussen at the University of California-Davis says certain combinations of pesticides may be helping to kill off bees already weakened by disease.

Eric Mussen: Right now, we're more or less saying it's sort of like the movie "The Perfect Storm," where a number of stresses are all sort of ganging up at once and finally the bees are just giving in.

Honeybees pollinate about a third of all the food we eat. That's roughly $15 billion worth of U.S. fruits and vegetables. An informal survey by the USDA found one-third of commercial bee brokers had a hard time finding enough beehives to pollinate California's almond trees, the largest almond crop in the world.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

Follow Sarah Gardner at @RadioGardner