Researchers blame multiple factors for honeybee decline

05/02/2013 08:28:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

varroa miteCourtesy University of GeorgiaVarroa mites are the primary stressor on honeybee colonies, according to a recent report.The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency released a scientific report on honeybee health May 2 that blamed several factors for bee colony declines.

They include parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure, according to a news release.

The report was the result of an October 2012 national Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee health.

The meeting was led by federal researchers and managers, along with Penn State University, who reviewed current knowledge about stressors that may be affecting bee health.

Key findings include:

• The parasitic varroa mite was recognized as the main factor responsible for colony loss in the United States. The pinhead-sized pest has become resistant to several pesticides.

In addition, new viruses have been found in the United States, and several have been associated with colony collapse disorder.

• U.S. bee colonies need increased genetic diversity.

• Bee breeding should emphasize traits, such as hygienic behavior, that would help improve resistanct to varroa mites and diseases.

• Nutrition plays a big role in individual bee and overall colony health. Bees need better forage and a variety of plants to support their health.

Poor nutrition also can lead to weak hives, which are less able to fend of pests or diseases.

• Bee best management practices exist, but they're not widely followed by growers.

The researchers called for more communication and coordination between growers and beekeepers.

• Additional research is needed to determine actual effect pesticide has on bees in the field.

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