- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

The vexing question arose when killer bees were first spotted in Texas nearly two decades ago: how to stop the swarms from spreading north? Lately, the news has been about colony collapse disorder. So could this disorder be a way to thwart the bees?

That possible deterrent to killer bees inspired one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions(at)ap.org, with “Ask AP” in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.


I have a question about a recent Associated Press article saying that the United Nations, based on fertility trends, now projects that the world’s population will hit 7 billion in 2012. How are these fertility rates calculated?

Kirsten Moseng

Bottineau, N.D.


The U.N. Population Division uses current national fertility rates as determined by individual governments or, when necessary, calculates national rates itself by drawing on registration records that note each birth and the mother’s age, and producing a total average number of births through all childbearing years. In countries with no reliable registration records, it estimates fertility rates based on data from censuses that ask questions about numbers of births, or on national health agency surveys that ask similar questions.

As for projecting future fertility rates, the division uses a historical template, past patterns of fertility declining from, say, five children per woman to three and then two as countries develop. Those trend lines are applied to forecast future fertility declines in developing countries with high fertility rates today.

Charles J. Hanley

AP Special Correspondent, International Desk

New York City


Are killer bees vulnerable to colony collapse disorder? Why or why not?

Kathleen R. Knese

Columbus, Ohio


One of the problems with colony collapse disorder is that scientists still don’t have a good handle on what it is, what causes it and how it differs from other bee problems. Given that, there’s a general sense that killer bees _ Africanized honeybees _ are experiencing the collapse disorder less, says University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum.

Why? If scientists knew that answer, they’d be much closer to solving the collapse disorder mystery. One possibility _ more an idea than anything that’s been tested _ has to do with size, Berenbaum says. Killer bees are slightly smaller than the commercial, more-common Italian bees. And some people _ especially in the organic beekeeping community _ suggest that smaller bees are less vulnerable to mites, which transmit all sorts of nasty bee diseases.

Killer bees have established strongholds in all of Arizona, most of Texas, and parts of Nevada and New Mexico with sporadic sightings in Oklahoma and Arkansas, according to the National Agricultural Pest Information System.

Seth Borenstein

AP Science Writer

Washington, D.C.


Please explain the earned income tax credit. And how can I find out if I qualify?

Donna Dalzell

Lexington, Ky.


The earned income tax credit, or EITC, is a refundable credit for people who work but don’t earn a big salary. A “refundable credit” means that it counts toward a refund, unlike many deductions.

To qualify for EITC, a taxpayer must meet certain income requirements. In general, a credit is available for a single person who earned less than $33,995 in 2008 and has one child. There is a sliding scale, so a single person with more than one child, or a married couple who file a joint return may still qualify for a credit if they earned more. Married people who file separate returns may not claim the EITC.

Taxpayers with no children can qualify if they earned less than $12,880. The EITC is phased out for people who earn more than $41,646, and is not available for anyone with investment income over $2,950.

The Internal Revenue Service Web site has an easy-to-use calculator to help you find out if you qualify for the EITC. Go to https://www.irs.gov and click on the “Individuals” tab, where you will find a link to the calculator. To claim the EITC, fill out Schedule EIC with your 1040 or 1040A form.

Eileen AJ Connelly

AP Personal Finance Writer

New York City


Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions(at)ap.org.

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