COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ) — The honeybee population has slowly declined. In a bad year, a colony will lose 15 to 20 percent of its population.
At the University of Maryland, Dr. Samuel Ramsey is researching what is killing the honeybee population.
His research has found that a parasitic mite called, Varroa, is to blame.
“They are actually widely considered to be the greatest threat to honeybee health,” Ramsey said. “They are causing colonies to collapse all over the world. They are a global issue.”
Ramsey and his research team found that these mites feed on a liver-like organ called, the fat body.
But for decades, scientists thought that the mites drank bee blood, which is where previous research was focused.
“They’ve always put that toxin in the bee’s blood,” Ramsey said. “What we know now is if you want to get rid of the mites, we have to put it into that organ, the fat body.”
Ramsey said that developing a toxin for the fat body that’s fatal to the mites, but not to the honeybees, will be the challenge.
But these mites don’t just threaten the honeybee population. They also threaten humans, according to Ramsey.
“About two-thirds of all the fruits and vegetables we consume are pollinated by honeybees, and we would see a drastic reduction in yields for these plants,” he said.
Ramsey said that there is an urgency in saving the bees the bees that feed us, from the parasitic mites that eat the bees.