Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Food for Thought: Honeybees Decline

Hey everyone,

Hope the spring semester is going well! It's been a while but here is a post I've been meaning to write for a few weeks so here it is! It seems these days as if more and more articles, posts, and documentaries are spreading the word on the declining honeybee population. For those who do not know, here are a few important facts about honeybees taken from the Natural Resources Defense Council:
  • Since 1990, >25% of managed populations have disappeared in the U.S.
  • Bees are pollinators which assist in spreading pollen and seeds
  • Pollination is important for >30% of the world's crops and as high as 90% of wild plants
  • Hone bees are important for producing food crop
While it is still widely thought that the reduced populations were due to residual pesticides, recent studies suggest there may be another suspect, tobacco ringworm virus. While it is still unknown whether the virus contributes or is responsible for the decline what has been observed are the following:
  • The virus initially remained in the gut or salivary glands, but recently has been found throughout the entire bodies of the bees
  • The virus is also found in a parasite (varroa mite) that infects the bees
  • Tobacco ringworm in addition to the black queen cell virus, deformed wing bee virus and Israel acute paralysis virus were found at higher concentrations prior to colony collapse in studies completed by the U.S. and China
More information can be read here (recommended): http://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/animals/files/bees.pdf

- Charles Quinto