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New treatment offers hope for saving beehives

By Martin Laine     Sep 28, 2013 in Science
A team of Swedish researchers at the University of Lund have developed a treatment they say will help prevent bee colony collapse.
The disorder has destroyed 10 million hives worldwide over the past six years. Far beyond being a source of honey, bees pollinate crops that account for two-thirds of the human food supply..
At first the sudden disappearance of entire hives baffled scientists. It is now believed to result from a combination of factors, including pesticides, parasites, poor nutrition, and stress, which in turn weaken the bees’ immune systems.
Beekeepers, particularly in the US, have given antibiotics to their bees in hopes of slowing the decline, but many pathogens are developing a resistance to antibiotics, making it clear some other form of treatment is needed.
The answer may lie within the bees themselves.
After 10 years of research, the Swedish microbiologists have discovered lactic acid bacteria in the stomach of bees that helps to protect them. By extracting these from healthy bees and then feeding them back as a supplement, they can boost the bees’ immune system.
The team has patented the supplement, known as SymBEEotic, and will present it at this week’s Apimondia beekeeping conference in Kiev, Ukraine.
“This is the only existing product that boosts bees’ natural immune system so they can fight off multifactorial diseases,” said Dr. Tobias Olofsson who, along with Dr. Alejandra Vasquez, developed the treatment, according to a press release on the Lund University website.
More about Bees, University of Lund, Colony collapse disorder