TIP SHEET: So long, and thanks for all the pollen

By:
Stu Hutson 352-392-0400

Source:
Jamie Ellis jdellis@ufl.edu, 352-392-1901 ext. 130

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s potentially the biggest mystery in natural science today, and finding answers means more than saving our honey supply.

Across the globe, honeybee colonies are dying in near-epidemic numbers with no known cause. Guesses at what may lie at the root of the culling range from new viruses to radiation from cell phone towers. However, University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers say that the die-offs are most likely a culmination of man-made effects—and potentially a potent warning for our own future.

“This is absolutely bizarre in the fact that such a widespread—and potentially devastating—event is taking place, and we have yet to be able to point out a likely cause,” said Jamie Ellis, a UF assistant professor of entomology and bee ecology expert. Ellis says the die-off is most likely the result of several factors including, but not limited to: genetic weaknesses inadvertently bred into bees over time, parasite-spread pathogens, side effects of pesticides, and environmental pollutants.

“The fact that this is a cumulative effect shows that it’s not just a problem with the bees,” Ellis said. “It’s an environmental issue as well—the bees are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Ellis is finishing an informational document on bee colony collapse disorder for honeybee professionals, and is available for media interviews. For more information on bees as “bioindicators” of human health, you may also contact Gabriela Chavarria, science director of the Natural Resource Defense Council at gchavarria@nrdc.org.

For more information on honeybees, contact Volusia County extension agent Dana Venrick 386-822-5778, dvenrick@ufl.edu.

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