- A plague is sweeping across the United
States, wiping out most of our wild honeybees. However, some mystery hives
have recently been discovered to be thriving in the wild.
- Researchers want to know what makes these
bees so tough and are working toward development of a resistant "superbee."
- These new-found bees have resisted bloodsucking
mites that attack both adult bees and larvae, killing entire populations.
- One of these mystery bee hives was discovered
along the White River in northern Arkansas. Somehow the hive is resistant
to the mites that have killed about 90 percent of the nationís honeybees.
Canada, parts of Europe and Russia are experiencing the same problem.
- Since the 1980ís two types of
mites, Varroa and Tracheal, have been responsible for the bee decimation.
Damage by the tracheal mite has been reduced through the breeding of resistant
honeybees, but the Varroa mite cannot be controlled yet.
- Experts are breeding offspring from the
mystery hive to determine whether they will be resistant to Varroa mites.
The hives have not been medicated, and so far there are no visual signs
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is
also studying Russian honeybees that appear to be 'tougher' than the bees
in this country. They have a genetic resistance to the Varroa mite, which
was found in Russia over 100 years ago. Scientists believe the Russian
bees have had more time to develop resistance to the mites than their U.S.
- There is a standard chemical treatment
for Varroa, but there are reports from Europe that the mites are developing
resistance to the chemical. There are no other chemicals approved for treatment
of the mites.
- Without some way to control Varroa, many
U.S. beekeepers could be forced out of business.
- "That would be a big blow to agriculture,
because billions of dollars in food crops are pollinated by honeybees,"
says Thomas Rinderer of the USDA.