For Good of the Colony, Sick Honey Bee Brood Sounds the Alarm

 

By Kaira Wagoner, Ph.D.

Pollinator health is a top priority these days, and everyone seems to be asking, “What can be done to save the bees?” Since most of the current challenges to pollinator health can be attributed to humans, there are several things we can do, from restoring pollinator habitat by planting pollinator-friendly natives to curbing our use of harmful pesticides.

This work is both ecologically and economically important, as honey bees are the most agriculturally important pollinator worldwide, contributing over $15 billion to annual crop yields in the United States alone. But honey bees have flourished on Earth for over 100 million years, so perhaps it is also worth asking, “What can honey bees do to help themselves?”

As social insects, closely related honey bees live in crowded colonies with frequent physical contact, a recipe for the rapid spread of parasites and pathogens. As a result, honey bees have evolved some fascinating social immune mechanisms, which help mitigate the spread of disease between sisters in a bustling colony. One such immune mechanism is “hygienic behavior,” the ability of adult bees to detect and remove unhealthy brood from the colony. By sacrificing a few unhealthy young, the overall health of the colony, and thus the probability of colony survival, is improved.

 

For full Article Entomology Today




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