Getting Closer to Answers on Decline in Honey Bees Population

We all want to do whatever we can to protect our pollinators—especially honey bees. Honey bees have been hit with a number of problems over the last decade, and entire task forces of scientists have been trying to figure out what has been killing them. This has been difficult to determine, partly because there are a number of fairly new, or spreading, pests of honey bees. The worst pest in honey bee hives is the tiny Varroa mite, but honey bees have been hit with other mites and a variety of fungal and other diseases that kill them as well.

On top of all that, it was thought that certain pesticides might be affecting honey bee colonies, but researchers have found that these pesticides by themselves are probably not as important to colony decline as once thought. It has also been discovered that even solar storms (sunspots) on the sun affect bees because it changes the earth’s magnetic fields. When these fields change, bees have trouble finding their way back to their hives because honey bees (and other insects and animals) use earth’s magnetic fields to navigate with.

Here’s one bit of good news about the Varroa mites that are deadly to honey bees. Wild honey bee colonies have been discovered near Ithaca, New York, that are resistant to the mite. The mite also doesn’t affect Africanized honey bees. It’s possible that eventually we can breed honey bees that aren’t affected by this spreading pest.