Stressed young bees could be cause of colony declines, scientists find

February 10, 2015

From: The Guardian

Bees having to forage younger because older workers have been killed off by disease could be key factor behind colony collapse disorder

Stressed young bees that are forced to grow up too fast could largely account for disastrous declines in populations of the insects around the world, research suggests.

Bees usually begin foraging at two to three weeks old but when older workers are killed off by disease, lack of food or other factors they have to start younger.

Scientists who attached radio tracking devices to thousands of bees found that early-starters completed fewer foraging flights and were more likely to die on their first sortie.

The phenomenon may be a key factor behind colony collapse disorder (CCD), a major threat to bee colonies – and crop pollination – around the world whose origins are still not fully understood.

Lead researcher Dr Clint Perry, from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “Young bees leaving the hive early is likely to be an adaptive behaviour to a reduction in the number of older foraging bees.

“But if the increased death rate continues for too long, or the hive isn’t big enough to withstand it in the short term, this natural response could upset the societal balance of the colony and have catastrophic consequences.

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