Concerted effort needed to save the honey bee

August 15, 2014

From: University of Sussex

Perhaps the most accurate thing about Albert Einstein’s pronouncement on the importance of bees – “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left.” –  is that he never said it.

It’s an aphorism often quoted in the many media reports on honey bee losses, along with apocalyptic headlines warning of economic and ecological disaster if the honey bee disappears for good.


Professor of Apiculture Francis Ratnieks and his team at the University of Sussex Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) are currently working on the Sussex Plan – a five-year programme of bee biology research, applied research into honey bee breeding and disease management and outreach to beekeepers, schools and local communities. The aim is to help the honey bee: research has already begun into breeding more hygienic bees and determining where bees forage.

Here, Professor Ratnieks and research colleague Norman Carreck, a leading authority on apiculture and bee science, provide an overview of the latest thinking, and stress the need for a “joined-up” strategy to save the honey bee from further decline.

Honey bees are being killed off by something called Colony Collapse Disorder, aren’t they?

It’s not helpful to describe all honey bee decline as “Colony Collapse Disorder”. The term CCD was coined to describe a specific set of symptoms in USA bee hives. Commercially reared honey bees are responsible for pollinating huge numbers of crops in the USA, where the California almond crop, pollinated by one million bee colonies specially shipped in for the job, is worth £2 billion alone. To this day, no one knows what the cause of CCD is, although a combination of pathogens is the most likely cause.

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