The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Thursday released a comprehensive scientific report on honey bee health. The report states that there are multiple factors playing a role in honey bee colony declines, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.
"There is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country's long term agricultural productivity," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "The forces impacting honeybee health are complex and USDA, our research partners, and key stakeholders will be engaged in addressing this challenge."
"The decline in honey bee health is a complex problem caused by a combination of stressors, and at EPA we are committed to continuing our work with USDA, researchers, beekeepers, growers and the public to address this challenge," said Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe. "The report we've released today is the product of unprecedented collaboration, and our work in concert must continue. As the report makes clear, we've made significant progress, but there is still much work to be done to protect the honey bee population."
In October 2012, a National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health, led by federal researchers and managers, along with Pennsylvania State University, was convened to synthesize the current state of knowledge regarding the primary factors that scientists believe have the greatest impact on managed bee health.
Key findings of bee health report include:
Parasites and Disease Present Risks to Honey Bees:
- The parasitic Varroa mite is recognized as the major factor underlying colony loss in the U.S. and other countries. There is widespread resistance to the chemicals beekeepers use to control mites within the hive. New virus species have been found in the U.S. and several of these have been associated with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Increased Genetic Diversity is Needed:
- U.S. honeybee colonies need increased genetic diversity. Genetic variation improves bees thermoregulation (the ability to keep body temperature steady even if the surrounding environment is different), disease resistance and worker productivity.
- Honey bee breeding should emphasize traits such as hygienic behavior that confer improved resistance to Varroa mites and diseases (such as American foulbrood).