Honeybees - Why Are They Disappearing?
What is Happening to Our Honeybees?
As most people are aware, there is a major decline in the number of honeybees over the last several years. The following article contains information on the honeybee and several theories as to why the honeybees are disappearing and what we can do to help.
Are Our Honey Bees Disappearing?
Honeybees are members of the order Hymenoptera, which also includes flies, wasps and ants. The commonly known “honey bee” is the Apis mellifera. Honeybees are the only animals besides humans known to have a representational language. They share information by touching each others antennae and do what is sometimes called a “waggle dance” which tells the other bees the location of food.
Queen bees are the only sexually productive females in the colony, thus she is the mother of all drones, workers, and future queens. The queen bee can choose the sex of each egg she lays and can lay up to 1500 eggs daily. The male bees are known as drones. Their only function within the hive is to mate. After mating, which happens in the air, the drone dies. Workers build and maintain the nest and care for the brood. They build the nest from wax secreted from glands in their abdomen.
Bee on Purple Coneflower
Honeybees on the Decline
Honeybees are a very important part of our agriculture as the provide pollination for our vegetable crops as well as our fruit crops and flowers. Bees are not the only source of pollination, however they are one of the main sources.
There has been such a reduction in the numbers of honey bees that there has been much attention brought to this problem. It is being termed, The Colony Collapse Disorder. Beekeepers have been known to open their hives only to discover that they were suddenly and mysteriously empty. Some bee keepers report having lost as much as seventy per cent of their colonies, and these losses, in turn, are likely to reduce the yields of crops.
There are several theories as to why this decline is happening. Many believe that it is a combination of things: viruses, mites, and industrial agriculture.
Purple Coneflower with Bee
Viruses and Mites
The viruses compromise bees’ ability to manufacture proteins, and proteins are the tools bees use to fight off pathogens, detoxify pesticides and repair their cells. It would be much like if our health is bad, we are not as able to fight off viruses and infections and we “catch” whatever illness is going around. New strains of viruses are found every year, not only for us humans but also for the bees.
Varroa mites are suspected to be another part of the puzzle. Varroa mites are tiny parasites that attach themselves to the bees and feed on their blood. There are also tracheal mites, which attack the bees breathing tubes,as well as several others. Mites are parasites which live off the bees and their larve, destroying their health in the process.
Honey Bee on Wildflower
There was a study done on hundreds of pollen samples, which showed, on average, six different pesticides. It was reported that studies also identified sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoids and fungicides, pesticides that may impair the bee's immune system. It is believed that these pesticides impair the bee’s immune system, which leaves the bee more susceptible to bee viruses.
What We Can Do To Help
The best thing we can do to help the bees is to not use pesticides. If that is not possible for you, don’t use these pesticides during mid-day while the honeybees are more likely to be out foraging for pollen and nectar. Plant flowers that are good nectar sources like red clover, foxglove and bee balm. Yellow cosmos, cone flowers, morning glorys and sunflowers are execellent flower for bees also. We need to encourage good nutrition for our bees in order to keep them as healthy as possible.
No one knows for sure why the honeybees are disappearing. Scientists are trying to find the culprits and a solution, but much of it is still speculation. I hope this information on the disappearance of the honeybees is informative and helpful. If you have a vegetable garden or flower gardens, be kind to your bees.
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