Researchers at the University of Texas have reported in the reputable scientific journal Science that they may have developed a new method to save bees from colony collapse. The new method is unique in the sense that it requires genetically engineered bacteria to work for us.
Once inserted in the bee’s guts, the bacteria work as biological factories pumping out medicine designed to protect bees from varroa mites and deformed wing virus – the two major causes of colony collapse. Scientists involved in the findings believe that their method would be easily scalable since inoculating bees is straightforward and the modified bacteria are unlikely to spread beyond bees.
The reason that the scientists are targeting mites and deformed wing virus is because they usually come together. As mites feed on the bees, they spread the virus while also weakening bees and making them more vulnerable.
This new method could potentially solve the colony collapse disorder (CCD). CCD occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony suddenly disappear, leaving the queen behind with the remaining immature bees. Recent experiments with this new method have delivered positive results, as the bees containing the bacteria were able to survive for way longer than its non-bacterial counterparts.
Saving bee populations is a huge priority for many around the world. Bees are an essential component of our ecosystem by pollinating plants and therefore, driving our agricultural economy. It is estimated that bees contribute to $20 billion each year to the value of US crop production alone.