ASU researchers working to preserve bee population

Posted at 5:38 PM, May 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-05 01:23:56-04

Valley scientists are doing some buzz-worthy research and it’s all in an effort to save honey bees.

Most people see honey bees as a spring time nuisance but at the ASU Honey Bee Research Lab, one of the most prominent bee laboratories in the country, the over 4-million bees are treated as a mega-pollinator that our food supply depends on.

According to the lab’s project manager, Osman Kaftanoglu, if there is a shortage of bees, there will not be enough pollination, which could in turn lead to a shortage of food.

It’s estimated that about a third of the crops in the United States rely to some extent on bees, but experts say the bee colonies that pollinate those crops have been dying off at an alarming rate.

“There is a shortage of bees in the United States,” said Kaftanoglu. “There used to be close to 6 million colonies in the 1950s or 1960s.”

That number is now down to less than 3 million colonies.

One of the theories that ASU scientists are putting to the test is the very thing used to protect our crops, a fungicide call Pristine. Could it be harming the hard working insects that makes it all happen in the first place?

“Growers use Pristine, which is fungicide, to protect the crop. We think that its affecting the survival of the bees and that's why we're studying it,” said Kaftanoglu.

These ASU researchers are taking it a step further, artificially inseminating queen bees and even freezing bee sperm to preserve the future of this important insect. 

One way experts say that you can help is with backyard beekeeping.

“Everybody is afraid of bees, but if they know the value of the bees and how to handle them than they'd probably have several colonies in their backyards to help pollinate crops,” said Kaftanoglu.

The ASU Honey Bee Lab does occasionally host beekeeping classes that are open to the public so you can help bee apart of the solution. Currently non are scheduled, but when any open up, they can be found online HERE.