New Scientific Breakthrough Could Protect Honeybees from Neonicotinoid Pesticides
Policymakers like President Barrack Obama and other political figures across the country and across the world have brought the plight of the bee into the spotlight and brought national and worldwide attention to the growing problems the decreasing bee populations have been having or the past several decades. Many groups in the scientific community have been working on figuring out what is causing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and trying to find a solution to this mysterious condition.
Students at the University of British Columbia spent the last summer developing and testing a probiotic that is designed specifically for the digestive systems of honeybees. This new advancement, aptly named “pro-bee-otic” is an innovative combination of microorganisms that may prove to be a powerful tool for honeybees as a defense against neonicotinoid pesticides, a chemical that may be causing CCD. The students at UBC worked hard to develop this solution and help declining honeybee populations.
“We rely heavily on bees for our food. They pollinate more than $15 billion worth of crops in the U.S. every year, but they are dying at alarming rates,” said Yu Qing Du, a student at UBC, who was interviewed for an article featured on Inhabitat.com. “We wanted to address an important issue with a worldwide impact.” Probiotics are helpful bacteria that can help promote overall health and well-being – the students believed that, if it could work for humans, it could work for bees too.
With the amount of research currently being done on the effects of neonicotinoids on bees and other insects, UBC students developed a probiotic to help bees defend against the pesticide. “Neonicotinoids are the most widely used pesticides because it harms insects but not mammals like people,” said another student at University of British Columbia, Jeanne Chan. The students developing the probiotic are using a type of bacteria that is not well-known and is mysterious to the scientific community.
“It’s a difficult process because there’s not much research on the bacteria we’re working with,” said UBC student Darren Christy. “We’ve been trying different ways to get the genes into the bacteria.” Ultimately, the student developing the pro-bee-otic envision it being mixed with a sweet substance such as sucrose and fed to hungry bees, helping to protect them from the negative effective of neonictinoids from within and possibly decreasing the number of cases of Colony Collapse Disorder across the world.