Honeybees' Cells May Offer Clues to Die-Off, published study finds

University of Wisconsin  By University Communications   October 13, 2014

By day Jim Burritt is an associate professor of biology at University of Wisconsin-Stout. By early morning, evening and weekends, he’s a beekeeper.

Burritt started beekeeping as a high school student in Colorado in the 1970s, and today he and his wife maintain several honeybee colonies at their home in rural Dunn County.

Like thousands of other beekeepers around the world, however, he’s perplexed. Something is killing honeybees. Year after year, many honeybee colonies don’t survive the winter.

Last winter for example, the approximately 70,000 bees in each of Burritt’s three hives died. In the spring, he had to buy more bees and start over.

The problem, known as hive winter kill, is threatening the honeybee industry and possibly even the species itself.

But what exactly is the problem? That’s where Burritt, the biologist by day, is trying to help.

He and several students in UW-Stout’s applied science program have conducted a groundbreaking bee cell study that is receiving international attention. The two-year project, “Honey Bee Hemocyte Profiling by Flow Cytometry,” was published Monday, Oct. 6, by the international journal PLOS ONE. The research can be found online at www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0108486.

Recent UW-Stout graduate Will Marringa was the primary student researcher and serves as lead author for the article.

PLOS One is a peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication for science and medicine research, according to its website, www.plosone.org.

Burritt has developed a process by which the immune cells of honeybees can be analyzed and...

Read more... http://www.uwstout.edu/spotlight/honeybee.cfm