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Could U.S. Honey Bees be Dying off Because of Inbreeding?

Honey Bee populations in the U.S. have been on the decline for decades and no one is sure of the exact reason why.  Here’s an interesting article from NPR exploring the possibility that maybe honey bees are suffering from too much in-breeding and are susceptible to varroa mites; however, Russian honeybees may be showing signs of resistance to varroa mites.

“Editor's note: This story is for mature bees only.

According to [Susan Cobey and] the WSU research team, the root cause of the U.S. honeybees' vulnerability to varroa [mites] is a dwindling gene pool that has left them short on genetic traits that help honeybees resist varroa elsewhere in the world.

"Honeybees aren't native to America," Cobey says. "We brought them here. But the U.S. closed its borders to live honeybee imports in 1922, and our honeybee population has been interbreeding ever since."

[USDA bee researcher, Robert Danka]… traveled to the Russian far east, where a local honeybee, Apis mellifera, has developed resistance to varroa.

These Russian bees groom themselves, biting and crushing the mites. They also have a prevalent genetic trait called varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH), aborting larval honeybees infested with mites and removing them from the hive before the parasite can spread. “

Scientists hope to introduce European and Asian honey bees to the U.S. honey bee populations and widen the gene pool of U.S. Honey Bees to deal with varroa mites naturally, without chemicals. To read the NPR article in full, go to: No offense American Bees, but your sperm isn’t cutting it

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