LINCOLN, Neb. — Bee hives at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are destined for research that could help Nebraska’s beekeepers better understand bees, their benefits and how to tailor habitat to protect them.

Honeybees have been hard-hit in the North American wild, leaving cultivated bees and less-populous wild critters like butterflies and bumblebees to spread pollen, the Lincoln Journal Star ( ) reported.

An annual nationwide survey by a nonprofit called the Bee Informed Partnership said that the U.S. lost more than 33 percent of its honeybee colonies from April 2016 to March 2017.

A recent survey by the Center for Biological Diversity found that 40 percent of the continent’s native insect pollinators are at risk of extinction, even though 90 percent of wild plants rely on insects for pollination.

Judy Wu-Smart, an assistant professor at the university and an extension specialist at the Entomology Department’s bee lab, said it’s depressing to open a hive and find dwindling worker numbers in a colony that once thrived only a couple weeks earlier.

Scientists give multiple reasons behind the bee body count: Pesticides, weather, climate change, mites, viruses, inexperienced keepers and colony collapse disorder all contribute in some degree.

All but about a dozen of the nearly 40 white boxes at the university’s East Campus pollinator garden will eventually be moved throughout the county to urban and rural locations for research.

The studies will involve protecting bees from drifting pesticides with tree stands and the benefits of roadside flowers.

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,