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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More on the bees

Research by a French team suggests that the decline in Honey Bees may be caused by reduced plant diversity. Two years ago Anglo/Dutch research suggested that bees and wild flowers are declining in step.

The French team have traced a possible link between the diversity of bee diets and the strength of their immune systems.

Cedric Alaux from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) said

We found that bees fed with a mix of five different pollens had higher levels of glucose oxidase compared to bees fed with pollen from one single type of flower, even if that single flower had a higher protein content

Bees make glucose oxidase to preserve honey and food for larvae against infestation by microbes - which protects the hive against disease.

So that would mean they have better antiseptic protection compared to other bees, and so would be more resistant to pathogen invasion

David Aston chair of the British Beekeepers' Association technical committee, described the finding as "very interesting":

If you think about the amount of habitat destruction, the loss of biodiversity, that sort of thing, and the expansion of crops like oilseed rape, you've now got large areas of monoculture; and that's been a fairly major change in what pollinating insects can forage for.

As Dr Aston says bees often do better in urban areas than in the countryside, because city parks and gardens contain a higher diversity of plant life.

The French government has just announced a project to sow nectar-bearing flowers by roadsides in an attempt to stem honeybee decline. Lets hope the British government gives this ago. If nothing else wild flowers are lovely to look at!

1 comment:

Liz said...

Very interesting Pete! And I do hope more councils here take on the idea if not the government.

Some councils are already very good at it, but I must say normally these wildflower areas by the road are only ever in urban areas - never or rarely actually in the countryside where they're needed the most!!