Honeybees are living half as long as they were 50 years ago

By | November 26, 2022

New Scientist reports:

Honeybees kept under laboratory conditions in the US only live half as long as they did in the 1970s, suggesting that genetics could be contributing to colony losses, and not just environmental factors such as pesticides and sources of food.

Five decades ago, the median lifespan for a worker western honeybee (Apis mellifera) that spent its adult life in a controlled environment was 34.3 days. Now, the median is 17.7 days, according to research by Anthony Nearman and Dennis vanEngelsdorp at the University of Maryland.

The work began as an experiment looking at the effects of feeding plain water to lab-kept bees as a supplement, on top of their normal diet of sugar water. But through examining the scientific literature on similar studies over time, Nearman observed a downward trend in lifespan from the 1970s to now – which was reflected by the lifespan of the team’s caged bees. Paradoxically, mortality rates were found to have doubled since protocols for lab-rearing honeybees were formalised in the 2000s.

The change implies that solutions to the reduced life of colonies in the field, a problem increasingly encountered by beekeepers, may be found in the bees themselves. [Continue reading…]

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