Funding to find missing bees

Scientists fear food shortages unless 'critical' research into falling honeybee populations discovers the reason behind dwindling numbers.

Researchers at Rothamsted Research and Warwick University have secured £1M from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in partnership with business Syngenta, to research the decline of honeybees.

UK government figures suggest bee numbers have fallen by 10 to 15% over the last two years, while the British Beekeepers’ Association quotes a figure nearer 30% for 2008.

Since the declines were first reported a number of factors have been suggested.

Most scientists now believe that a complex of interacting factors is the most likely cause.

The projects lead researcher, Dr Juliet Osborne said: “Bees living on agricultural landscapes have a lot to deal with.

“They must respond to sudden changes in availability of food – pollen and nectar – whist dealing with a variety of diseases, parasites and other stresses.

“This project will provide us with a unique insight into how disease and food supply affect the survival of bees in farmed landscapes.”

The team will use a combination of field work and computer modelling to look at how the bees’ behaviour outside the hive, while looking for food, interacts with what is affecting bees in the hive – factors that have historically been studied separately.

“The ultimate aim of the project is to build a model that will allow us to understand how bees may respond to diseases in a changing farmed landscape.”

Luke Walsh

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