Hope for the Honeybee?

Honey Bee Hive

Honey Bee Hive

Colony collapse disorder has been recognized for about 5 years now as a problem threatening the continued existence of domestic honey bees. Some years have seen as much as a 40% loss to domestic bee populations. The fewer bees there are, the fewer pollination-dependent crops, like fruit and berries, get harvested. The loss of these bees therefore affect a large percentage of people, from farmers to consumers. Scientists and researchers have finally isolated the primary cause of CCD, but the problem doesn’t stop there.The primary issue is parasitic mites, but the bees don’t die from the mites themselves. The mites also carry viruses, which the bees can then contract. Still, these viruses are not directly what kill the bees. Instead, some of these viruses can infect the bees in such a way that their immune systems are compromised. This means that if a virus-infected bee is then afflicted with another illness, even one that in other circumstances would likely be no more than a minor annoyance and not at all life-threatening, the bee will probably die. And in inbred colonies of hundred thousands who together live in close quarters, disease spreads quickly. What virus or illness affects one, affects all.

There have been advances and there is hope. Scientists are looking at ways to attract the mites away from the bees and get rid of them without affecting the bees as pesticides do. At the moment, this consists of experiments with sticky boards that give off odors to draw the mites away from the hives and trap them where they can’t get at the bees to either attach to or infect them.

What individuals can do to help combat the loss is plant some bee-friendly plants in gardens and yards, to attract the many wild varieties of bees and help their populations increase.

Sources 1, 2, 3

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