ambience: sound of bees in hive
For over a decade beekeepers across North America have been battling a tiny but tenacious foe known as the Verroa mite. This eight-legged invader hides in the places where honeybees lay their eggs, and then feeds on the developing bee larvae. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
According to Joel Coats, Chair of the Department of Entymology at Iowa State University, the destructive Verroa mite is not only spreading fast, it’s already becoming immune to some of agriculture’s most effective pesticides.
“The Verroa mite is a really nasty parasite, and it is becoming resistant to the main chemicals that are used to try to control it. And thatâ€™s making it even more of a challenge to deal with.”
Verroa mite infestation can quickly destroy a hive’s ability to sustain itself. The mites feast on worker bees eventually causing the entire colony to fail.
“It sucks the nutrition out of the developing brood – the young, the larvae of the bees – and a lot of them will emerge then with deformities, or are just weak individuals. And the economics of the bee colony depend very heavily on fully healthy and strong workers to do the labor and keep the production up. So if there are significant numbers of bees that are produced that are not competent to do their share of the work, then there can be a real problem.”
Dr. Joel Coats and his colleagues are testing new pesticides derived from naturally occurring plant oils to fight the Verroa mite. We’ll hear more about that research in future programs.
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.