USU Researchers Working to Save Bees

USU Researchers Working to Save Bees

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Ed Yeates Reporting Utah honeybees are dying while researchers at Utah State University are working quickly to come up with a new weapon to stop what's killing them.

The killing of honeybees is costing crop growers in California and bee managers in Utah big bucks.

Darren Cox, Cache Valley Honey Company: “It’s threatening a $15-billion year industry for commercial pollination. That’s basically the value honeybees have in the United States for pollinating.”

The Varroa mite may not look like a killer, but on the back of a honeybee it's the size of a squirrel. Bee managers like Darren Cox have been killing Varroa with a combination of pesticide strips for the past five to ten years, but a new generation has become resistant.

Because colonies have dwindled, almond growers in California are paying more to rent swarms to pollinate their crops.

Darren Cox: “Last year I rented hives in California for almond pollination at $46 a hive. This year I rented hives as high as a hundred.”

Of course, growers will pass that cost onto consumers who will pay more for almonds.

At USU's Bee Research Lab, Dr. Rosalind James and her colleagues are working on a fungus that will kill the mites without harming the bees. When placed in hives spores from the greenish brown stuff land on the mites, germinate, then infiltrate for the kill.

Dr. Rosalind James, Entomologist, USU-USDA Research Lab: “The way that it kills a mite is more complex and so it’s harder for the mite than to come up with a genetic method to overcome that.”

USU is also raising native Blue Orchard bees which are immune to the mite as a possible option for pollinating crops. It doesn’t make much honey, but it’s a very good pollinator. And it’s not very aggressive, so when it stings, it doesn’t sting hard.”

Dr. Rosalind James: “It doesn’t form a colony like honey bees do. Each female makes her own nest and it takes only about a hundred bees per acre for pollinating.”

Mite resistant bees and fungus - a recipe USU is all a- buzz about to chase away this thing that's claiming way too much of its fair share.

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