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Biotech Science

Scientists Breeding Super Bees 248

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 Lilith's Heart-shape ( 1224784 ) on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @04:06PM (#36753522) Homepage
    Isn't this how we got "killer bees" in the first place?
  • by smoothnorman ( 1670542 ) on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @04:12PM (#36753588)
    Lest we forget the "Brazilian killer bee" problem, (which, I believe is still an issue), was the result of a good intention to improve the bee breed by increasing their active response via cross-breeding with more aggressive African strains. Then (as the story goes) someone (c1957) left off the queen excluder (grill that prevents from the queen from becoming a "free agent") and as a result dangerous bees escaped into the wild and several terrible horror films were born. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africanized_bee [wikipedia.org]
  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @04:24PM (#36753752)
    Worst case scenario would be that they fail. From TFA:

    bees pollinate 90% of the world’s food crops

    This is not like tinkering around with a ton of fissile material for a lawn ornament, this is breeding bees to ensure we have food. Creating a second breed of killer bees is not a nightmare scenario. There have been 11 deaths in the US due to killer bees since the 90's [udel.edu]. Imagine we create a killer bee variety that's worse, and that number rises a thousandfold. Compare that nightmare scenario to 90% of the crops worldwide failing to be pollinated.

    Which would you rather risk?

    If you're that paranoid that every article about biological research makes you worry about "I am legend" scenarios or clouds of murderous insects, I don't know what you're doing typing on a computer. Skynet and the matrix people! What could possibly go wrong?!?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @04:47PM (#36754114)

    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.

    Thinking that nature knows anything is just as arrogant.
    What makes you think that nature won't kill us all if left alone?

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @04:53PM (#36754200)

    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.

    And you're offering up another false dichotomy. We try to make resistant bees AND we try to solve the problem with the mites. There are other scientists working on the problem with the existing bees. We have enough scientists to work on both. Hopefully we'll solve the problem without breeding new bees. If that fails, hopefully we can fix the bees.

    Not trying to make resistant bees because "it's not their fault" is stupid. Plus, that's not really what we do. Aside from fish, we domesticate (read: fiddle with the genetics of) everything we eat or use in the production of food. Why would bees be any different?

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling