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UC San Diego Study Offers Insight Into Bee Colony Collapse

Bees are pictured in the Nieh Lab at UC San Diego in this undated photo.

Credit: Nieh Lab

Above: Bees are pictured in the Nieh Lab at UC San Diego in this undated photo.

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A new study out of UC San Diego may shed more light on the demise of the honey bee, a phenomenon that has been making news for the last 10 years.

The study found that nosema ceranae, a fungus, which was previously thought to only infect adult honey bees, can also infect bee larvae.

James Nieh, a co-author on the study, said research has shown that between 57 percent to 89 percent of honey bees are infected with fungus.

When the bee ingests a fungus, it infects the bees’ gut and multiplies. Then, the gut ruptures and the fungus is defecated out and a new cycle of infection begins, Nieh said.

"It doesn’t kill them but does weaken their health," he said. "And it makes them vulnerable to pesticide and parasites."

San Diego beekeeper Mark Kukuchek, who has 400 hives, has seen the bee population decline firsthand.

“I had a hive where I had a queen and about 20 bees,where normally I would expect 20,000 to 30,000 bees, and now they are all gone,” Kukuchek told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday.

The study comes as the Obama administration is proposing new efforts to maintain America's commercial and feral bee populations.

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