Canadian Scientists Try to Solve Bee Die-Off
In Canada, as in most countries, honeybees are dying off at an alarming rate. Beekeepers have no idea why.
Honeybees are at the core of our society even though most people are oblivious to this fact. They provide us with honey and pollinate 1/3 of the food we consume. Researchers say that a staggering 50%—or 1 out of every 2 Canadian beehives—is dying for no apparent reason. This sounds like the potential makings of a food crisis and is indeed a dire message.
Scientists remind us that the honeybee agriculture economy is estimated to generate $5.5 billion. According to the figures above, this market could also drop by 50%.
Check out this awesome TedEd 3:46-minute "crime scene" investigation of what's happening to honeybees:
Up to now, monitoring honeybee health has been a nebulous and unsatisfactory practice, since there are no bee vets and bee whisperers are hard to find. Honeybees are subjected to such stressors as parasites, pesticides, pathogens, poor nutrition and much more. Beekeepers tend to evaluate hive health by doing a visual inspection and calling it good unless something catches their eye.
Change is now in the air, thanks to Amro Zayed, an associate professor at York University and Professor Leonard Foster from the University of British Colombia, along with 22 other researchers from across Canada.
Starting in October 2019 and expected to last for 4 years, these scientists will explore how to end honeybee mass die-off by finding ways to measure the health of the honeybee. Their $10 million project has the support of Ontario Genomics and Genome Canada and will develop a bee health diagnostic tool. This could be a game changer for countries everywhere.
Bees from coast to coast across Canada will have their internal physiology examined for stressors that are affecting them. Environment is also important since colonies in the cold north near Hudson Bay won’t have the same stressors as colonies in the Ontario corn belt.
The beauty of this is that it will provide beekeepers with real time diagnosis, whereas up to now the only insights about why a bee colony perished came in the form of doing post-mortems. The hope is that by knowing which stressors a hive is dealing with, the beekeeper can intervene and stop the full collapse of the colony.
The intention is to observe bees that are infected with certain viruses to see which genes it activates in its’ immune system. Knowing which genes are ramped up will help researchers predict the pathogen or virus the bee is fighting off. Beekeepers will also be able to send in live samples for bio-marker testing and receive a bee health assessment.
And since it's weekend, here is another short 3:58-minute TedEd video about why honeybees love hexagons so much!
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Happy Weekend! :)
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