A new study shows how bee keepers might be able to protect their apiaries against colony collapse disorder
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — With a little bit of housekeeping, honeybees may be able to fend off the worst effects of a parasitic mite believed to a major factor in the recent spread of colony collapse disorder.
The blood-sucking mites weaken larval and adult bees, leaving them with a reduced ability to fight off infections, which is a problem because bees don’t have strong immune systems to begin with.
New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Genome Biology finds that specific proteins, released by damaged larvae and in the antennae of adult honey bees, can drive hygienic behavior of the adults and promote the removal of infected larvae from the hive.
The discovery could give bee keepers a new tool, helping them select and breed colonies that are able to fend off the mites.
To find exactly how bees respond to hive infections, researchers from Canada looked at the natural behavioral of bees in the presence of damaged larvae and compared this to protein differences in the larvae and adults.
“Bee keepers have previously focused on selecting bees with traits such as enhanced honey production, gentleness and winter survival,” said lead researcher Dr. Leonard Foster, of the University of British Columbia.
“We have found a set of proteins which could be used to select colonies on their ability to resist Varroa mite infestation and can be used to find individuals with increased hygienic behavior,” he said. “Given the increasing resistance of (the mites) to available drugs this would provide a natural way of ensuring honey farming and potentially survival of the species.”