A way to keep pollinating bees around without chemicals? There mite bee.
May 22, 2015 11:38 AM   Subscribe

"The first 21 days of a bee's life in 60 seconds" is a time-lapse video by photographer Anand Varma, who discusses his collaboration with the bee lab at UC Davis in breeding a naturally mite-resistant line of honeybees. (Via.)
posted by a lungful of dragon (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Yes yes this is so dope. It's been all over my Facebook.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:52 AM on May 22, 2015

Came for the puns, stayed for the video.
posted by radicalawyer at 12:08 PM on May 22, 2015

Also: paging Dr. Giger!
posted by radicalawyer at 12:09 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

You can see the varroa mites crawling on them...
posted by Mister Cheese at 12:16 PM on May 22, 2015

As an apiphobe, I would prefer if we just held out for a non-bee solution to pollination. Science will find a way.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:19 PM on May 22, 2015

posted by showbiz_liz at 12:27 PM on May 22, 2015

Ah, crap, I watched the video and commented before seeing that this is about a mite-resistant line of honeybees! That's cool. BEES ARE TOTALLY COOL. VARROA MITES ARE THE WORST!
posted by Mister Cheese at 12:50 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

My hippie beekeeping teacher always said that smaller bees were more naturally resistant to varroa. That's why drones are typically reservoirs for them - they're larger and take longer to develop. One (more extreme) treatment for varroa is to scrape out most of your drone cells before the bees fully develop. I've seen this done and it is absolutely disgusting. Like popping dozens and dozens of juicy zits the size of pencil erasers.

He also said that the size of a varroa mite as compared to a bee is about the same as the size of a rabbit compared to a human. Imagine walking around with a RABBIT SIZED BLOOD SUCKING PARASITE permanently attached to you.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:06 PM on May 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

Science will find a way.

Science's current way is generally people with paintbrushes, at least in the lab, so it is not great.
posted by maryr at 1:29 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

A low-tech strategy that can be implemented by beekeepers right now: start breeding your own locally-adapted queens, and stop using foundation in your hives.

A big-picture strategy: direct efforts towards promoting native pollinators and native flowering plants. Stop relying on non-native bees for pollination.
posted by feralscientist at 1:50 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

It will be interesting to see what happens in Ontario this year and next. A neonicotinoid ban comes into effect in a month or so, so we'll get a partial clean season. Year on year hive deaths were down a bit this winter (and a bit lower than the US totals), but still more than twice the pre-neonicotinoid baseline.
posted by bonehead at 3:16 PM on May 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Science's current way is generally people with paintbrushes, at least in the lab

Not only in the lab.
posted by not_the_water at 3:58 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'd really like to know where they plan to go with this. The statements about hidden stressors and understanding bees up close are great, but a 72,000-hive commercial operation sounds like the closest thing bees have to a factory farm, and I'd imagine this would go along with practices such as trucking the bees around regularly, replacing honey stores with sugar, or killing off drone brood - all of which are fine and dandy if you're only interested in producing as much honey as you can over a couple of decades, but possibly disastrous if you want hardy bees to stick around in the long term.

If you try to select strongly for a couple of specific traits such as calmness or mite resistance, there's a risk that you could be mucking up other mechanisms that bee colonies rely upon for regulation or immune function or navigation that you didn't even know were there. For example, we've only fairly recently figured out that bees rely on genetic diversity within the colony (and the consequent range of temperature preferences) to smooth out temperature fluctuations in the hive. Bees are far from domesticated - they are not confined to a nice little shed or fenced-off field where you can always see what they are doing, and it's far from completely clear how they interact with the surrounding environment. We don't even know where the drones all go to hang out, a lot of the time.

So, on the one hand, a bit of research to understand the exact effects of commercial beekeeping practices would be very useful, but if it's still done with an attitude of trying to micromanage them even further then I'm not sure it will help.


The video is amazing, though!
posted by doop at 4:21 PM on May 22, 2015 [7 favorites]

My sister-in-law had a summer job where she rubbed the naughty bits of soy bean plants together. Having bow-chica-bow type music playing on your iPod wasn't required but was encouraged.
posted by VTX at 5:51 PM on May 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Speaking of music, the video was way awesome, but I almost had to abandon it because of the music...
posted by Samizdata at 6:57 PM on May 23, 2015

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