A core set of genes involved in the responses of honey bees to multiple diseases caused by viruses and parasites has been identified by an international team of researchers. The findings provide a better-defined starting point for future studies of honey-bee health, and may help scientists and beekeepers breed honey bees that are more resilient to stress.
A chemical that is thought to be safe and is, therefore, widely used on crops — such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits — to boost the performance of pesticides, makes honey bee larvae significantly more susceptible to a deadly virus, according to researchers at Penn State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Honey bees use different sets of genes, regulated by two distinct mechanisms, to fight off viruses, bacteria and gut parasites, according to researchers at Penn State and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The findings may help scientists develop honey bee treatments that are tailored to specific types of infections.
Feeding honey bees a natural diet of pollen makes them significantly more resistant to pesticides than feeding them an artificial diet, according to a team of researchers, who also found that pesticide exposure causes changes in expression of genes that are sensitive to diet and nutrition.
An international team of researchers has discovered honey bee colonies in Newfoundland, Canada, that are free of the invasive parasites that affect honey bees elsewhere in the world. The populations offer a unique opportunity to investigate honey bee health, both with and without interfering interactions from parasites.
Several parasites and pathogens that devastate honeybees in Europe, Asia and the United States are spreading across East Africa, but do not appear to be impacting native honeybee populations at this time, according to an international team of researchers.
Scientists in the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State received three grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation to study various threats to honeybees, including disease, pesticides and the extinction and invasion of other species into their habitats.
Four pesticides commonly used on crops to kill insects and fungi also kill honeybee larvae within their hives, according to Penn State and University of Florida researchers. The team also found that N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) -- an inert, or inactive, chemical commonly used as a pesticide additive -- is highly toxic to honeybee larvae.
Queen bees convey honest signals to worker bees about their reproductive status and quality, according to an international team of researchers, who say their findings may help to explain why honey bee populations are declining.
In this video clip, Maryann Frazier talks about the decline of pollinators and the prime suspects behind it. Some of these suspects include the use of pesticides, on both small and large scales, that destroy food sources for bees; agribusiness practices such as monocropping, in which the same single crop is planted year after year, eliminating the plant diversity pollinators need; stress caused by transporting the bees across country for commercial pollination needs; and threats such as nosema disease, viruses and mites. Maryann Frazier is Senior Extension Associate in the Department of Entomology at Penn State. This brief clip was excerpted from Frazier's Spring 2012 Research Unplugged talk titled "Disappearing Bees: An Update on the Search for Prime Suspects."
A nationwide network to monitor and maintain honeybee health is the aim of the Bee Informed Partnership, a five-year, $5 million program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and led by Penn State.
Penn State's efforts to address Colony Collapse Disorder, a nationwide phenomenon in which the adult honeybees of a hive disappear, often spelling death for the colony, will benefit from a gift of $100,000 to aid pollinator research. Honey distributor Dutch Gold Honey and William and Kitty Gamber, of Lancaster, Pa., have each contributed $50,000 to endow a fund that will support undergraduates studying entomology.
Honey bees industriously bring pollen and nectar to the hive, but along with the bounty comes a wide variety of pesticides, according to Penn State researchers. Add the outside assault to the pesticides already in the waxy structure of the hive, and bee researchers see a problem difficult to evaluate and correct. However, an innovative approach may mitigate at least some beeswax contamination.
Across the nation, beekeepers have seen hive after hive succumb to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD); a team of entomologists and infectious disease researchers, including Diana Cox-Foster and her team, now report a strong correlation between the occupancy of CCD and a virus, Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IVAP). "We have not proven a causal relationship between any infectious agent and CCD," the researchers report in the Sept. 6 issue of Science Express online. However, they note that the prevalence of IAPV genetic material in bees suffering from CCD, the timing of the outbreaks and the geographical circumstances "indicate that IAPV is a significant marker for CCD."
A photo gallery of images from Cox-Foster's laboratory is available at http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/1425 online.