Can Science Save the Bees?


The rapid loss of bees is one of the biggest issues that is currently at the forefront of environmental, as well as political, discussions. Even the cereal brand Cheerios has joined in the discussion going as far as removing the mascot off their cereal boxes in an effort to bring awareness or the shrinking honeybee population.  NBC News reports that a staggering 44% of honeybee colonies have been wiped out, and a few species of bees are on the brink of extinction.  This has been an ongoing trend that doesn’t seem to be getting any better; which brings up the question can science save them?

There have been some interesting propositions to deal with the declining rates of bees. Eijiro Miyako and his team at Japan’s National Institue of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has proposed using insect-sized drones to artificially recreate the role bees play.  While this approach doesn’t attempt to help bees it does aim to fill the gap bees would leave behind.  The loss of bees would have far-reaching and damaging effects; a huge majority of crops solely depend on bees to reproduce. Coffee, strawberries, almonds and other popular items would become difficult to come by. Not only do bees impact food sources, but they also are indispensable a host of other goods such as soaps, lotions, and even clothing.

With bees being so crucial to a wide array of different sectors of our daily lives it’s no wonder scientist have instead shifted their thoughts on instead attempting to recreate them.  Still although in theory, a tiny drone pollinating plants seems doable, it may be more far-fetched than that. For starters, there are several thousand species of bees some of which will exclusively pollinate one type of plant. Therefore, the idea that the work of bees could be mechanized seems implausible given how notoriously complicated nature can be.

Another area that scientist have focused on has been in finding a way to eliminate varroa mites, a parasite that will take fluid from bees and in exchange will deliver a deadly virus that quickly kills off entire colonies. The truly terrifying thing about these parasites is how fast they are evolving, the deadly virus is killing off bees at a much faster rate than it did 2o years ago. In reaction to this evolving parasite a company, Monsanto, based in St. Louis have been working on a technique called RNA interference or RNAi. This technique would take aim at the genetic sequence and attack certain proteins found in mites that help them eat, breath and reproduce: thus effectively rendering them harmless.

Granted mites are only one of the very many problems that honeybees are currently facing, another problem being a lack of diverse plants for them to pollinate. Experts claim that one of the best ways ordinary people can do their part to save the bees would be to start pollinator gardens, which would ensure that bees had a wide variety of flowers, from spring to summer, that would then help keep them strong enough to fight off viruses.


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