Andrew Barron of Macquarie University and Dr Clint Perry of Queen Mary University of London are part of an international team trying to solve the mystery of why bee colonies have been collapsing worldwide.
The collapse of honey populations can put a massive strain on agriculture, as bees are largely responsible for crop pollination. In Australia alone, honey bees contribute about $5 billion to the economy.
Previously, pesticides, pathogens and nutritional deficits have been identified as key stressors to the collapse of bee colonies, but this research took it further, by tracking thousands of bees through their whole life cycle using radio tracking.
The study found that existing stresses forced younger bees to start foraging earlier in their lives, which caused them to die earlier, in turn putting stress on the strict social structure of the colony as a whole, and causing colonies to collapse.
The research suggested a few possible solutions, such as ‘rescue packs’ of more bees to revive collapsing populations, and new sensors to detect which colonies are most at risk.
Given the potential economic advantages of finding a solution to this problem quickly and effectively, research like this is vital for keeping Australia, and the world, strong.
[img source] USDA (CCA2.0)