Photo: staflo (flickr)
In the effort to figure out what’s behind colony collapse disorder, scientists have developed a new hypothesis: High fructose corn syrup could be partly to blame.
Commercial bees are often fed high fructose corn syrup in place of honey in their hives — a practice that started in the 1970s, when research deemed it safe.
In 2006, the USDA formed a task force to figure out why bees were disappearing from hives.
Research has pointed to a number of contributing factors including parasitic mites, disease, changing pesticides, habitat loss and nutrition.
Another seems to be the consumption of high fructose corn syrup.
But it isn’t the high fructose corn syrup itself that’s harming bees. Rather, the bees are thought to miss out on immunity enhancements conferred by natural honey when given the artificial substitute.
A group of researchers from the University of Illinois found that when bees are exposed to enzyme p-coumaric — which is found in honey — their immune system becomes stronger. P-coumaric comes from pollen walls and sticks to bees’ legs.
Pesticides have changed since the 1970s, and without the honey to help bees adapt, bees may be more susceptible to exposure.