Sunday, 21 June 2015

Honey Bees' African Ancestors May Hold Cure for Biting Mite Plague

Jessica Arriens, U.S. National Science Foundation | June 19, 2015 01:42pm ET

Jessica Arriens, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), contributed this article to Live Science's& Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

The honey bearers arrived in the early 17th century, carried into the United States by early European settlers. Apis mellifera, a name that truly translates as "bee honey-bearer" — though they are better known as honey bees. 

Over the ensuing centuries, they have flourished in the temperate North American climate — so successful, they've become an integral part of America's agricultural economy, contributing more than $14 billion in pollination services each year. They're trucked by the thousands to our apple orchards and blueberry farms, our fields of squash and watermelon. Over the last decade, however, the honey bearers have suffered. They've died in alarming numbers, entire colonies collapsing into ruin. The culprit seems to be a complex quartet of factors — poor nutrition, parasites, pathogens and pesticides — and scientists are still uncovering how these stresses harm bees, and how they can be prevented. Could the answers to some of these questions lie in Apis mellifera's African ancestors? 

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