The European research project Bee-Doc is dealing with this problem through three different research pillars: The first aims to diagnose the diseases with the development of new easy tools. The second one includes the development of strategies for disease prevention and the third pillar tries to develop innovative treatments that rely less on chemical treatments. Bee-Doc has been looking into these problems since March 2010 and has brought together 11 universities from nine different countries.
At Stuttgart University Hohenheim, researchers are introducing toxins into groups of bees under the guidance of Dr. Peter Rosenkranz: “First of all, we want to know what the real effect of certain combinations of pesticides and parasites is. We want to see how the colony will react, how it handles exposure to toxins and explore possibilities for selecting honey bees that produce offspring that are better adapted to these kinds of parasites and probably to environmental stresses as well.” Also in Germany, at Halle Wittenberg University, a research programme is focusing on genetics. Scientists want to understand which single gene is involved when a specific source of stress for the insect – be it illness, parasites or pesticide – is active. Another of these branches of research is based in Avignon, France. Here Yves Le Conte’s team is studying a special kind of local bee that is resistant to infection. He told us about a source of local resistance to stress.
Bee-Doc aims to help beekeepers survive CCD by developing a tool that prevents the problem. Finding a way to protect bees means working to protect the balance of the ecosystem. Bees are a delicate microcosm of the health of our planet: problems for them mean problems for us all somewhere down the line.