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What's bugging our bees?

There are approximately 20,000 bee species in the world and 1,600 species in California. Despite this diversity, honey bees are still arguably the most important managed pollinator, and this brief overview willfocus on issues plaguing this charismatic insect. However, many of the same stressors are certainly affecting other pollinator populations. In agriculture, honey bees are used for pollinating numerous food plants that make our diets more exciting and nutritious, including many fruits, vegetables and nuts, and they are a crucial contributor to healthy ecosystems.

However, beekeepers in the past decade have been reporting annual honey bee colony losses that have reached 45%, which is more than double the acceptable loss deemed by beekeepers.

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Effects of oxalic acid on honey bee larval development

In 2015 oxalic acid was approved by the EPA for use as a pesticide for mite control in the United states (Reinhold, D). The mite Varroa destructor feeds on the hemolymph of immature and adult honeybees causing deformed wings in developing bees and reduced lifespan in adult bees (Ellis, J. 2010).

CATCH THE BUZZ : Sick Bees Eat Healthier.

In the study, published recently in the journal Microbial Ecology, the researchers first gave groups of bees different kinds of pollen. They found that sick bees, and not healthy bees, lived longer when they had access to the pollen that was more nutritious, even though it also increased the number of parasites found in their gut.

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How Honey Bee Gut Bacteria Help to Digest Their Pollen-rich Diet

The honey bee gut is colonized by specialized bacteria that help digest components of the floral pollen diet and produce molecules that likely promote bee health. In a recent study published in PLOS Biology, a group of researchers from Switzerland uncovered which bacterial species perform which specific digestive functions in the bee gut.
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Honey Bees: USDA CCD Summary

The European honey bee ( Apis mellifera) is known for its importance for honey production. In addition to honey production, A. mellifera is the most commonly used species as a pollinator in the U.S. Honey bees are managed and used to pollinate over 100 crops grown commercially in North America. Although there are many hobbyist beekeepers, commercial beekeepers are responsible for providing the majority of pollination services to growers. Bumble bees ( Bombus), leafcutting bees ( Megachile rotundata), and to a lesser extent alkali bees (Nomia melanderi) and mason bees (Osmia spp) are also managed for use as pollinators in the U.S (National Resource Council of the National Academies 2007) .


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