4:06pm

Thu January 5, 2012
Science and Tech

Discovery of Parasitic Fly on Honeybees

The discovery of a parasitic fly on honeybees in California has given scientists new clues to colony collapse disorder, which has killed millions of bees. But it’s too early to determine whether the fly is affecting bees in Kentucky. For the past five years, numerous honeybee colonies have disappeared, and scientists aren’t really sure why. The discovery of a parasitic fly in California that makes bees fly zombie-like off into the night may provide some clues.

But apiculture researcher Tom Webster at Kentucky State says it’s still too soon to know whether the fly will provide clues to colony collapse disorder in Kentucky.

“We can’t say that all these problems in all these countries and for all these beekeepers that the problems are the same. They are actually very different,” he said. “The parasites and possibly also these flies that have just been discovered can all be expected to be very different in different places and also in different times of years.”

Kentucky’s fruit and vegetable crops rely on honeybees for pollination. But Webster says it’s important to look at the problem globally.

“For example, if Kentucky horses and cattle are eating alfalfa, which is usually part of their diet, then they rely on alfalfa that’s pollinated for seed in California and Oregon,” he said. “So the bee pollination on the west coast for example is important to what we’re doing here in this state.”

Up to 30 percent of Kentucky bees die each winter, and Webster says that number used to be closer to 10 percent. Webster says the causes appear to be mites, diseases and pesticide residues that are getting worse, but in the spring as bees begin to wake from hibernation, he’ll begin looking for signs of the fly.