Bees represent some of the most resilient, adaptable and enterprising insects on earth. Not only that, they pollinate about one-third of all the food we eat. So when honey bees began dying or disappearing at alarming rates in the U.S. and around the world more than four years ago, scientists such as Nifty Fifty Speaker Dennis vanEngelsdorp, as the acting Pennsylvania state apiarist (beekeeper) and one of the nation’s most prominent advocates and researchers of bees, was naturally deeply concerned. “Bees and other pollinators are a barometer and referendum on the state of our environment,” says Dennis, who serves as a senior extension associate in the Department of Entomology at Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “They’re a reminder of the brilliant and frightening interdependence of our ecosystem.”
Dennis and other researchers have traced part of the mysterious disappearance and death of bees to what they term Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a complex condition where nutrition, parasitic mites, bee diseases and pesticides seem to compromise the immune system of bees. Says Dennis: “We know that CCD bees are dying from their equivalent of the flu, and so they’re getting bad viral infections. But it’s not the same flu–there are different strains and different types of viruses bees can get. CCD bees have a lot more pathogens than healthy bees do. The question is, why are these bees suddenly so susceptible to these different pathogens, and we don’t have an answer to that yet.”
What do you think we can do to help save bee populations?
Read more about Nifty Fifty Speaker Dennis vanEngelsdorp and his important work with bees here.
Watch Dennis’ passionate address, “Where have the bees gone?”:
Here is another great video of Dennis talking about what makes bees so cool: