Bees live half as long as they did 50 years ago

(ORDO NEWS) — Even under laboratory conditions, bees today live less than three weeks. This is almost two times less than at the end of the last century.

The reasons for such changes are unknown, but they lead to a reduction in the life of bee colonies, causing significant harm to both beekeepers and nature.

The lifespan of bees has halved since the 1970s. Moreover, such changes were detected in laboratory conditions, which means that they are not associated with pollution and other environmental factors.

Perhaps the problem is rooted in the genome and arose as a result of the use of modern beekeeping technologies, leading to a decrease in their productivity and resistance to parasites.

Bee colonies have a fixed lifespan, and beekeepers replace old colonies with new ones from time to time. However, in recent years this has become more and more common.

University of Maryland biologists Anthony Nearman and Dennis van Engelsdorp figured out why. They took larvae from hives no later than a day after birth, incubated and kept adult insects in the laboratory.

It turned out that the average lifespan of a worker bee is about 17.7 days. In similar experiments that were carried out in the 1970s, the figure was almost twice as much – 34.3 days.

Of course, laboratory conditions are very different from life in a bee colony, but analysis of the literature has shown that a similar reduction in life span is observed in insects in colonies.

The authors simulated the effect that these changes should have on the frequency of colony replacement, and the results were consistent with the trend observed in recent years.

The problem may be related to the influence of pesticides or viruses to which the bees were exposed while still maturing in the combs or in the first hours of life, receiving food from adult workers.

On the other hand, scientists have not been able to detect other disturbances that should occur with such exposure.

Perhaps the source is rooted deeper – in the genome of bees, which are massively bred for honey and pollination of agricultural plants.


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