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The Mystery Of Vanishing Honey Bees

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53aFJQo-pzc

Video published September 10, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: Imagine a world without apples, almonds and broccoli. It takes honey bees to pollinate most of our favorite fruits, nuts and vegetables. But the bees are mysteriously disappearing. Some commercial beekeepers in San Diego have already been affected by this phenomenon. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce tells us beekeepers are keeping a close eye on the research, some of it at UC San Diego.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

THE HONEY BEES ARE MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARING. COMMERCIAL BEE KEEPERS IN SAN DIEGO HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY THIS PHENOMENA. KPBS REPORTER ED JOYCE TELLS US BEE KEEPERS ARE KEEPING A CLOSE EYE ON THE RESEARCH, SOME OF IT AT UC SAN DIEGO.

NO BEES, NO HONEY. NO WORK, NO MONEY.

Reporter: HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO THE BEE KEEPING BUSINESS?

WE HAD A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY THAT WAS A BEE KEEPER.

Reporter: ALLEN HAS BEEN A COMMERCIAL BEE KEEPER SINCE 1985. HE'S WORKED WITH BEES FOR MORE THAN 35 YEARS. ON THIS DAY, HE'S CHECKING HIVES NEAR TEMECULA. THE HIVES ARE DRIPPING WITH HONEY.

THIS HONEYCOMB HAS BEEN SITTING HERE FOR A WHILE. THE WAX IS REAL LIGHT COLORED WHEN THEY FIRST MAKE IT. IT'S BEEN WALKED ON AND IT'S DARKENED DOWN A LITTLE BIT. FEEL THAT.

WHOA THAT'S HEAVY.

THERE'S ABOUT FIVE POUNDS OF HONEY IN THAT.

Reporter: MIKOLICH FINDS A TROUBLING SIGN IN ANOTHER HIVE.

THIS COULD BE A VIRUS. THIS ONE RIGHT HERE. JUST THE OUTLINE. SEE THAT THERE? IF YOU TAKE THE ONE NEXT TO IT HERE, SEE IT'S GOT FULLY DEVELOPED WINGS? THAT'S PROBABLY WHY THIS I'VE IS WEAKER THAN THE OTHERS.

Reporter: THE CONCERN IS NOT THE HONEY BUT JUST MORE THAT THIS COULD HAPPEN TO MORE OF YOUR BEES?

RIGHT. HERE'S ANOTHER ONE HERE THAT'S A LITTLE STUBBY LOOKING THING. IT'S A VIRUS THAT SUCKS THE BLOOD OUT OF IT SO IT'S SMALL.

IF YOU HAVE GENTLE BEES AND THEY ARE MAKING HONEY AND IT'S NICE WEATHER, THEY WILL NOT ATTACK YOU.

Reporter: HE'S NOT THE TYPICAL BEE KEEPER, SHORTS, SHORT SLEEVED SHIRT AND NO GLOVES. HE OCCASIONALLY GETS STUNG BUT DOESN'T SEEM TO MIND.

I GOT STUNG ALREADY BUT YOU WOULDN'T KNOW IT.

Reporter: MIKOLICH IS LIKE OTHERS WHEN IT COMES TO BEING CONCERNED ABOUT THE DISAPPEARANCE OF BEES. THE MASS DISAPPEARANCE OF BEE COLONIES STARTED ABOUT FOUR YEARS AGO. THE CCD IS CAUSED BY A COMBINATION OF FACTORS INCLUDING PARASITIC MITES, A NEW VIRUS AND PESTICIDE EXPOSURE MONEY.

IN THE UNITED STATES, ONE OUT OF THREE HAS TO HAVE BEES FOR POLLINATION. IN CALIFORNIA, THE POST IMPORTANT CROP'S ALMONDS. 99% OF DEPENDENT UPON THE HONEY BEES. WITHOUT THE BEES YOU GET NO CROP.

Reporter: MIKOLICH SAYS HALF OF ALL OF THE BEE HIVES IN THE UNITED STATES ARE BROUGHT INTO CALIFORNIA EACH YEAR TO POLLINATE THE STATE'S ALMOND GROWTH. CALIFORNIA PROWS 80% OF THE WORLD'S ALMONDS. THE UNITED STATES COULD LOSE $15 BILLION WORTH OF CROPS INCLUDING CALIFORNIA ALMONDS WITHOUT BEES TO POLLP NATURE THEM. SCIENTISTS SAY IT'S LIKELY THEY PLAY A ROLE IN THE COLLAPSE DISORDER. THE BEE KEEPERS HAVE LOST HIVES BECAUSE OF THE MITES.

I'M VERY CONCERNED. I'VE LOST 50% OR MORE FIVE OUT OF THE LAST SIX YEARS ON COLONY COLLAPSE. THE PARASITES, VIRUSES AND NEW BACK TIER YAZ ARE DEVASTATING THE INDUSTRY AT TIMES.

Reporter: SOME OF THE ANSWERS MAY COME FROM RESEARCH HERE AT UC SAN DIEGO.

WE HAVE THE BEES INDIVIDUALLY LABELED. WE'RE WATCHING THEM INSIDE THE NEST TO SEE WHAT THEY DO AND HOW THEY COMMUNICATE.

Reporter: JAMES NIEH IS TRYING TO DETERMINE IF CERTAIN PESTICIDES AFFECT THE BEE'S ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE.

THIS IS A LARGE PART OF HOW A BEE POLLINATES. THE BEE WILL GO BACK INSIDE THE NEST AND TELL THE NEXT MATES WHERE TO GO TO FIND THE TREE. IF THAT COMMUNICATION IS DISRUPTED, AND SOME STUDIES SUGGEST IT IS, THAT COULD HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE HEALTH OF THE COLONY.

Reporter: NIEH SAYS SOME LETHAL DOSES HAVE BEEN USED TO KILL PESTS THAT THREATEN HONEY BEES. WHEN BEES FIND FLOWERS, A FOOD SOURCE, THEY RETURN TO THE HIVE AND DO A DANCE TO TELL THE OTHER BEES WHERE THAT FOOD IS LOCATED.

SO ALL OF THESE BEES HERE THAT YOU ARE SEEING, AND HERE'S ONE THAT JUST CAME IN, AND SHE'S QUITE EXCITED. YOU CAN SEE THAT SHE'S RAPIDLY MOVING AROUND THE NEST. THEY ARE COMMUNICATING TO THE OTHER BEES WHERE TO FIND THE FOOD. BECAUSE THE SOURCE IS CLOSE BY, THEY ARE DOING A ROUND DANCE BUT BASICALLY, AS THEY START DANCING, YOU CAN SEE THEY ARE BEING FOLLOWED BY OTHER BEES INSIDE THE NEST.

NIEH SAYS PESTICIDE MAY DISRUPT THE PROCESS.

IF THEY ARE TREATED WITH SUBLETHAL DOSES OF PESTICIDE, THEY WILL NOT COME BACK AND MAY GET LOST. ONE STUDY SUGGESTS THEY DANCE LESS SO THE EFFICIENCY AT RECRUITING OTHER BEES TO THAT SAME FOOD SOURCE HAS DECREASED AND THE COLONY'S GETTING LESS FOOD.

Reporter: WEAKER COLONIES CAN IMMEDIATE A GREATER SUSCEPTIBILITY TO DISEASE, MITES, BACK KIER YA, ALL CONSIDERED FACTORS IN COLONY COLLAPSE.

THAT WASN'T BAD. ONLY GOT STUNG FIVE OR SIX TIMES.

Reporter: FOR ALLEN IT'S BEEN A GOOD HONEY HARVEST AND HIS BEES ARE SO FAR MOSTLY HEALTHY. HE AND OTHER BEE KEEPERS, BIOLOGISTS AND FARMERS ARE PAYING CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE ONGOING RESEARCH, WHICH THEY HOPE WILL PROVIDE ANSWERS TO WHY THE BEES ARE DISAPPEARING.

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deebeeman | July 20, 2011 at 10:47 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

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