Sweet Survival

Bees & Superbees Update

While bee colonies die off around the world, pesticide chemical companies continue to protect their businesses by lobbying against bans on neonicotinoids, a group of nicotine-based toxins designed to paralyze insects by attacking their nervous systems. And that, claim critics, includes honeybees.

Mounting authoritative research undermines the pesticide industry’s long-repeated arguments that bees are not being harmed, and increases pressure on U.S. and UK authorities to follow other countries in banning the suspect chemicals, blamed for the “colony collapse disorder” that has been decimating bee populations.

The current double-whammy for honeybees is an Asian mite, the varroa, which feeds on honeybee young and adults and spreads viruses. To fight the pest, commercial beekeepers have turned to heavy feeding and medication to try to keep hives alive.

Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s honeybee lab, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that have studied for the last decade why some hives had low mite levels, have determined that the bees in those colonies were able to detect mites hiding in sealed cells and feeding on developing young. The researchers’ goal is to breed a queen that will pass on to her colony the traits of resistance to pests and disease, gentleness, productivity and winter hardiness, thus creating a superbee. The project is ongoing.

Source: Environmental Health News

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