90% Of US Honeybees
Wiped Out By Plague Of Mites
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 of mites.
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. counterparts.
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.

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