Helping Honey Bees Help Themselves

Western Farm News  10/3/12

Diseases, pests and the mysterious phenomenon of colony collapse disorder pose a dire threat to the U.S. beekeeping industry and, in turn, to the $20-billion-a-year crop industry that relies on insect pollination. Because of these increasing pressures, the ranks of managed bee colonies have plummeted in recent years: On average, beekeepers are losing 30 percent of their colonies every growing season.

While the exact cause of colony collapse disorder is unknown, researchers believe it to be the result of a combination of factors, one of which is the Varroa destructor (V. destructor) mite, a pest introduced to the country in the late 1980s. V. destructor, difficult to control because it has become pesticide resistant, attacks bees by sucking their blood, thus spreading viruses among colonies and weakening individual bees, making them susceptible to pesticides not intended to harm them.

Rather than relying on pesticides and antibiotics to controlV. destructor and related diseases—a method that has become part of the problem — University of Minnesota Entomologist Marla Spivak is advancing effective strategies that...

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