The Latest Buzz About Bees
January 22, 2014

The Latest Buzz About Bees

Within the last few months, a friend of mine has really turned me on to the show Dr. Who, and let me state that this is saying something. I am not really much of a television guy, but this really captivated me. The sheer whimsy of the show combined with its (occasionally) very intelligent script was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for at the time. Now, while I still have not caught up all the way to what is currently happening, though I have been made very aware of it thanks to the active fandom of the show, I have reached the part of the series where they continually mention that the honey bees are disappearing. I found this strange, as I have heard the same thing in local news stories. As such, it has led me to take a stronger interest in the goings on of bees, namely because I cannot even begin to describe how much I adore honey. Most of my friends are all about the chocolate. No. Forget that stuff. Give me honey any day.

A recently discovered problem facing honey bees is a fungal intestinal parasite called Nosema ceranae. Believed to originate in Asia, the parasite has quickly spread all across the world and is believed to be the cause of a large number of honey bee colony deaths in the northern hemisphere. The greatest problem about this fungal parasite is that male honey bees, or drones, are much more susceptible than worker bees, which are all female. Discovered by a research team from Switzerland, this factor has led many to become quite concerned about the population of honey bees. Drones have a weaker constitution than workers or queens, the two types of female bee, due to their having only a singular chromosome set. This is an issue as, despite the male bee not performing the same tasks around the hive as a female, and there not contributing as much to the colony overall, the males still have one exceedingly important function: to breed. Without hearty drones, the chance of a queen successfully mating is in serious jeopardy. Recent studies here in the United States suggest that the queen failing to give rise to the next generation of workers, drones, and queens is a major cause of colony failure and may in fact be the leading cause of the population decline of honey bees overall.

Honey bees are an integral part of our ecosystem. Their role as pollinators is beyond compare for many agricultural crops such as carrots, almonds, and more. In addition, their honey goes into many food products all across the globe. In Europe alone, more than 24 million colonies make more than 130,000 tons of honey each year. If we were to lose our honey bees to Nosema ceranae, the effects it would have on our food security would be dire.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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