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Biotech Science

Scientists Breeding Super Bees 248

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-could-go-wrong dept.
Elliot Chang writes "Over the last five years the world's honey bee population has been steadily dwindling, with many beekeepers citing 2010 as the worst year yet. In order to save these extremely important insects, scientists are working on breeding a new super honey bee that they hope will be resistant to cold, disease, mites and pesticides. If all goes well, the new and improved insect will continue to pollinate our crops for years to come."
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Scientists Breeding Super Bees

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  • by 246o1 (914193) on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @04:29PM (#36753826)

    Mod Parent Up!

    Not only is the killer bee problem much less of a problem than people think it is, but the potential loss of the world's honeybees is a much WORSE problem than people think it is. It's another case of the less-sexy story being more important by orders of magnitude.

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @04:31PM (#36753864) Journal

    I'd rather not risk either.

    You're offering up a false dichotomy, that it is "either this, or that". Nothing is further from the truth. SOMETHING is going on with the bees, and we had better find out what it is. If it is really THAT dire, then this is an "all hands on deck" moment for science. Trying to fix the bees when it is not their fault is stupid.

    Thinking we know better than nature is just plain arrogance, which might just kill us all, and may be why we're in this boat to start with.

  • I'm a Bee Keeper. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @04:36PM (#36753948)

    Not exactly.

    Over in parts of Brazil, someone imported African honey bees to raise in CLOSED enclosures, and like all pets they escaped into the surrounding terrain when the colonies became large and their containment was challenged.

    What I find odd is how quickly the African honey bees inter-bred with the native wild bee populations, and it didn't take long for the native bees to show traits that not even the original parent strains had shown. In my experience of managing several 40K hives with a single queen in them, the difference between a Africanized hive and a normal hive is 9 of 10 bees will attack you from an Africanized hive as opposed to a normal hive where 1 of 10 will only "investigate" and then 1 of 20 will actually try to sting you.

    In contrast, Africanized honey bees produce less honey and are over-active in a schizzophrenic way, where when disturbed they will actually survey upto 2 miles around their hive to aggressively attack anything that moves and will remain this way notably longer than non-Africanized populations. In reality, all bees that have stingers are the females and they die after stinging once because they have a barbed stinger that rips their intestines and poison gland out of their abdomen (except the queen, she is barb-less). Why have Africanized bees not simply died-off from their suicidal attacks then? They key is cross-breeding, where only a fraction of thier genetics remains after a 50/50 mating of the original strain gets reduced to verry low genetic footprint after successive mating with other bees. Also of note, because the queen mates only once are rarely more in her life, her collection of male reproductive matterial is stored for her life inside her and it's as though it is preserved, and with successive matings that queen might lay eggs that hatch either pure non-Africanized bees or native bees: there is her genetic footprint, and then there is the share of potential offspring that are fertilized with a pre-stored African contribution.

    In my opinion, scientists realy are the ones to blame: they are introducing unnatural successive genetic statistic into a genome that wasn't aquired through natural selection. With all the corruption of Monsanto Corporation, and the corruption of prior US Army partnerships to USDA to enrich and cross-breed dangerous animals and bacteria and fungus for warfare, you simply can't trust the scientists to ever having any wholesome ethics: the scientists themselves should be given the same suspicion as would when approaching a bee hive you suspect has lost it's native queen and could be turning into African bees with a new queen.

    In reality, there are higher-quality bees that produce more honey, not as destructive when agitated, have better social customs, and are more patient in their lifestyle. The average European Honey Bee lives anywhere from 2 to 4 months, but a Africanized bee lives less than 3 weeks. That alone is proof that the Africanized strain is destructive to itself if not just a bastard to it's surroundings. By far in yield and quality of honey, the greatest replacement to the Africanized bees, as well as to phase-out all Honey Bees due to the recent contamination, I would choose the Denmark Black Bee. Like the Denmark red cow, the Black Bee is endangered. I find that quite saddening how such a higher-quality animal is always the one on the bench.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @05:07PM (#36754422)

    Yep. Corn, wheat, rice, sorghum, cassava, and potatoes, among others, can get by just fine without bees. Notice anything about those crops? They're the most important staples. A world without bees would certainty suck, it would limit the ability to produce certain fruits (like apples) and increase the cost of seed production for non-fruit vegetables (like onions), but I doubt it would be the apocalypse that it is made out to be. Worst case scenario is an increased need for parthenocarpic & self fertilizing crops and an increased cost for those that don't. Again, not an ideal situation, but it is those staple crops that are the most important, not the tasty produce ones..granted, they are the nutrient dense ones, but still.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @05:44PM (#36754990)

    We already know what it is killing the bees.

    A Germany company called Bayer developed a widely-used insecticide called imidacloprid destroys a bee's immune system at extremely low doses. Bees pick it up in large amounts when they visit plants that were sprayed with the insecticide, carry it back to their hive, and it spreads around rapidly. Then the bees die from any normal illness they would otherwise be able to fight off.

    One of the earliest trials in Germany resulted in all bees within the test site dying in a matter of months. For whatever reason, Bayer decided not to stop and continued to develop the insecticide. They've always known from the earliest steps about its lethality.

    Bayer has been actively trying to withhold scrutiny of their product and are suing/threatening everyone that implies they are responsible. At least in the US, the EPA isn't doing anything so it may be up to other countries to investigate and find Bayer accountable for this mess.

    So to be absolutely clear, this entire bee problem is due to Bayer selling an insecticide that adversely affects bees as a side-effect worldwide. I really wish the media would make a bigger stink about it. It's not a mystery fungus or global warming.

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