What’s Happening to the Bees?

Honey bees
Bee farmers are witnessing the death of their bees at an alarming rate. (Wikipedia/Bjorn Appel)

We all know how important bees are for pollination, and without them we would be in real trouble.

Scientists in Australia have been trying to determine what is causing “colony collapse disorder” (CCD), and they may have found a reason.

This video discusses some of the reasons behind CCD:

CCD is when bee hives have only a few young bees and a queen bee inside. There are no worker bees, nor are there any worker bee bodies. Without the worker bees, the entire colony collapses, with no evidence of why this has happened.

 

Dead bees

Dead worker bees from a hive. (Image: Flickr/YoungandWithIt)

 

How external conditions can trigger CCD

Studies on external conditions, such as pests, pesticides, and food quality, have been conducted before without finding any explanation as to why CCD occurs.

Most researchers believed that a new disease was infecting the hives.

The team of Australian scientists exposed worker bees to stressors, and when they did, the workers often died prematurely. This then triggered the younger bees to leave the hive to forage; the team monitored the younger forage bees with radio tag tracking to find out the consequences. What they found was that young bees completed fewer foraging trips in their life, and had a higher risk of death in their first time out.

Lead scientist Dr. Barron said: “Bees who start to forage when they’ve been adults for less than two weeks are just not good at it. They take longer, and they complete fewer trips. Our model suggests bees are very good at buffering against stress, but there’s a tipping point, and then you see this rapid transition into complete societal failure.”

This study shows the processes of rapid depopulation of a colony, and is the first study to explain at least one pathway for how CCD happens. Now, they just have to find ways to prevent this.

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