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Vanishing Honey Bees

by Himabindu Venkatakrishnan on  April 29, 2007 at 4:55 PM Research News   - G J E 4
Vanishing Honey Bees
A new phenomenon taking place in many countries, which is causing confusion among scientists, is the mystery of the missing bees. This has made the scientist work overtime to decipher the reason for this. Normal healthy adult bees abandon the hive, queen bee, food and the young.
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Many years ago it was seen that a mass exodus would leave the hive to be ransacked by honey bees from neighboring colonies. But in the new phenomenon it is seen that new bees are hesitant to enter the abandoned hives. There are also no dead bees to be seen around. The occasional ones that are around seem to be destroyed by some disease. Many beekeepers who moved their hive frequently were the ones that were most likely to be badly affected.

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A Californian scientist seems to have found some answer. Bio chemist Joe DeRisi, has conducted some tests on the of genetic material taken from a "collapsed colony" in Merced County. This points hand at a rare microbe that use to affect the Asian bees. But now it seems to have developed a deadly strain in the US and Europe. He conducted the tests on the materials of dead bees that he found in his mission Bay lab. He found genes of the single-celled, spore-producing parasite Nosema ceranae, which are capable of wiping out a bee hive.

Jeffery Pettis, research leader for the U.S. Agriculture Department's Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville is of the opinion that "Mostly we think of Nosema as a stress disorder of honeybees".

Though it is very early to make a concrete statement in the research, it sure highlights some interesting facts. Government scientists who have been tracking the phenomenon they call Colony Collapse Disorder were earlier skeptical but now they too seem to agree with this fact.

This has had an adverse affect on the economy too. Honey production is worth just $200m a year, but bees pollinate $15 billion-worth of fruit, vegetables and nuts, especially the $2 billion almond business. They contribute $15 billion to the nation's agricultural output.

The U.S. Congress held hearings last month to consider remedial measures, including ways to compensate beekeepers for their losses and to prevent the spread any harmful fungus or disease.

Source: Google
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