In recent years, the population of honeybees have decreased dramatically. Data revealed during the spring of 2013, 45% of an average bee keeper’s colony was lost the previous winter. This mysterious phenomenon is also known as “Colony Collapse Disorder” or CCD. This occurs when worker bees in a colony disappear, leaving behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. The human population is heavily dependent on honeybee pollination, therefore it is important for us to prevent the honeybee population from decreasing further.
One of the main suspects of CCD is the Varroa mite, a tiny parasite that clings on to bees when they enter the hive. They transfer dangerous diseases and have become a huge threat to the health of the bees. Bayer bee care scientists and researchers from Frankfurt University came up with a specifically designed entry way, the Varroa Gate, to stop the Varroa Mites before they enter the hives. It is a plastic trip with small entry holes placed at the entrance of the hive. When bees pass through the gate, a coating of poison targeting the mites is brushed on. This coating of poison kills off any Mites that the bees may be carrying. Using a physical trick, the chemical coating is automatically replenished. The Active substance molecules move to balance out the concentration, rising to the surface once some has been brushed off. This keeps the Varroa gate fully effective for several weeks. Any residues in honey and wax are being tested, however, no side effects have been seen.
Another cause that is said to cause CCD is overuse of pesticides. Residues of chemicals on open blooms and pollen sometimes make their way into honey, affecting the honeybees’ health. Dr. Klaus Wallner is working with representatives of application technology and the manufactures for crop protection products to come up with a way to apply pesticide that benefits both the farmers and the bees. The “Drop Leg” technology is a Germany-wide collaborative project. Researchers developed a hook-shaped extension that hangs down from the spaying machine. It applies the crop protection products on the green parts of crops, below the flowers. This minimizes the amount of chemicals bees come in contact with, greatly benefiting the environment, it also prevents loss of product from wind, massively decreasing drift losses. This design had been proven effective on Oilseed rape but could be used in the future on other crops.
The idea of bees being extinct seem to be far-fetched, however, as the numbers keep decreasing, the missing honeybees need to be replaced to keep cross-pollination going. Eijiro Miyako at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and his colleagues have developed a drone that imitates bees transporting pollen between flowers using the principle of cross-pollination. The manually controlled drone only weighs 15 grams and is 4 centimetres wide. There is horse hair to mimic the bee’s fuzzy exterior and a sticky gel attached under the drone. When the drone flies on to a flower, pollen sticks to the underside of the drone and it rubbed off on another flower during the drones next visit. Cross-pollination using this method was proven effective for Japanese lilies. There is still room for improvement but Eijiro Miyako believes this is how artificial pollination will be in the future.
The issue of CCD has gotten a lot of media attention lately to help more people become aware of this situation. The internet has become a very valuable resource for bee keepers to learn more about this issue and prevent their own hives from being affected. It helps science as the internet is a great place for researches to gather and provide further information. The internet also informs people what they can do to help, for example buying honey to support beekeepers in the area, not using pesticides in gardens, and planting flowers such as rosemary, lavender, and poppies to support honeybee pollination.
With honeybee population decreasing at an alarming rate, and most of our crops relying on them, solutions and prevention methods, as well as possible alternatives, are crucial to stop the disappearance of honeybees.