Science Questions

Sat, 17th Jun 2006

Part of the show Social Insects and Locust-Inspired Car Safety

Question

Randall in Texas asked:

It's well known in the USA that bees are dying. This is having profound effects on certain types of agriculture. Why are these bees dying, are they dying elsewhere and is there any way to stop it?

Answer

There is a varroa mite which is rushing through populations of honey bees in Europe, but I'm afraid I don't know about the American situation. This is a very serious pest, which is causing a lot of concern in European hives. I imagine the same thing is happening in America but I'm afraid I don't know. The mite gets into the cells where the larvae are growing and eats and kills them. It's very contagious and gets from colony to colony while doing large amounts of damage. Bees are very hygienic and spend a lot of time cleaning. I imagine this is a relatively new thing that has come into their system and they're not yet properly adapted to it.

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