What are bees for?
The common European bee or Apis mellifera according to its scientific name, is an arthropod insect of the Hymenoptera family and is found in all parts of the world. Humans depend on them for a myriad of reasons.
In this regard, the famous scientist Albert Einstein is credited with a premonitory phrase: "if the bees disappeared, man would have barely 4 years of existence left".
We use each and every one of the products that they make: honey is recognized as one of the most complete foods that exist, in addition to having excellent curative and preventive properties.
Royal jelly, which bees make to feed the queen, is a powerful natural antibiotic and is used in countless medicines and homeopathy. The wax with which the combs are built is the base for a good number of cosmetics and creams.
But they are not only useful for what they produce but they are essential for agriculture, forest regeneration and the conservation of green spaces, since when flying from flower to flower, they are the most effective pollinators (they move pollen from one place to another another fertilizing plants) with which Nature has.
As if all the above were not enough, bees are used as remedies in themselves, since the venom from their stinger has powerful healing effects for people suffering from different types of rheumatism, lung and cardiovascular diseases. Apitherapy is based on the anti-inflammatory effects of this substance.
Why are they disappearing?
The main cause for which the survival of bees is seriously threatened is man. Whether directly due to over-exploitation or indirectly due to the effect of climate change, pesticides, extensive monocultures, deforestation, pollution and a long etcetera, human beings are destroying this fundamental species for the maintenance of the delicate balance of our planet.
As if human action were not enough, several years ago the existence of a mite (a small arthropod of the arachnid family) called Varroa destructor was discovered. This represents a true pest for bees since it affects them in various ways.
It is an external parasite or specialized ectoparasite, so it only attacks these insects and its effects on both adults and larvae are really very harmful. According to studies carried out, the origin of this pest is in the Philippines, but it spread rapidly throughout the rest of the world.
When Varroa destructor attacks adults, it does so by "latching on" to the bee's body and sucking out the circulatory fluid (hemolymph), causing significant weight loss that impairs performance and can end its life.
It has the same effect on the larvae, added to the fact that it transmits a virus to them, so that if they survive (many times they die from excessive parasitization) they are born with a deformation in the wings, the varroasis. If the attack is directed at the queen, she may die or lay virus-infected eggs.
Fighting the Varroa Destroyer
Beekeepers usually take measures as soon as they find that their colonies have been parasitized and for this they have several drugs that can be toxic, so they must be used with extreme caution.
The problem is that the largest number of bees live in the wild and it is impossible to control the progression of this type of condition.
That is why the bees themselves have managed to combat the plague that was decimating them.
This has been verified in a population of bees kept under study and control in Ithaca, a city in the state of New York.
Thanks to the fact that genetic samples have been available since the 70s, a comparative study has been made and it has been found that there are adaptive mutations aimed at repelling the plague.
One of the effects that these genetic changes have on the behavior of bees is that the flowers affected by the pests, or the initial point of contagion, are rejected by the workers who do the collection work.
The second effect is that during "grooming", a habitual activity in insects and very pronounced in apis mellifera, they not only eliminate parasites, but now destroy them by crushing them with their mouthparts, preventing the proliferation of the plague in the hives. .
In summary, it is expected that since one colony has succeeded, others will also be able to develop this type of evolution as a defense method.
Genetic diversity will be essential for this great evolutionary step to be extended to the rest of the bees.