Published on November 9th, 2008 | by Jerry James Stone15
UK Professor Hopes Modified Bee Genes Can Prevent Colony Collapse Disorder
A UK Professor Hopes His Genetically Modified Worker Bees Can Help Stop The Colony Collapse Disorder That Is Grossly Effecting the UK Economy
Last week 140,000 protesters from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) marched on Whitehall demanding $8-million in emergency funding from the Department for Environment to tackle alarming rates of bee decline. The decline has cost the UK economy about $54-million in the past year alone.
[social_buttons] But British scientist Francis Ratnieks — and the UK’s only professor of apiculture – is pioneering research that he hopes will assuage the hardship beekeepers have been experiencing with colony collapse disorder.
He hopes to reverse the decline of the honeybee by breeding cleaner bees to protect hives from harmful diseases. The cleaner bee is a breed of worker bee that will be genetically programmed to keep hives clean. They will be responsible for removing pupae and larvae from the hives if they are dead or dying.
Currently these cleaner bees only exist in very small numbers. The hygienic bee was first observed in the 1930s, but at most only 10-percent of a hive has bees with this gene.
Basically, if more of these bees can be “created” then they can protect hives from parasites like the varroa mite: last year the mite killed more than 2-billion honeybees and wiped out one in three colonies.
This three project is being privately funded by the leading UK honey brand Rowse Honey. The company has warned Britain that the country could run out of home-produced honey by Christmas.
Aside from just honey, bees pollinate some $165-million worth of crops in the UK annually, as well as flowers and wild plants. The Bee Farmers’ Association is supporting the project by helping to test colonies with hygienic queens in 100 hives across Britain, to see if they are also good at making honey.