Purdue University researchers are trying to breed bees that are resistant to parasitic mites because the warmer winter and spring is making bees more vulnerable to disease.
Purdue University entomologist Dr. Greg Hunt says it is likely that the warmer weather will help more parasitic mites reproduce now through autumn. Those mites attach themselves to bees, feed on them and eventually kill them.
“They grow during the growing season and their populations get higher,” Hunt says.
Hunt says the parasites are partly to blame for the overall decline in the bee population since the late 1990s. As a result, Hunt says they‘re trying to breed bees that are more mite-resistant. The goal is to get the bees to recognize the mites, bite them and kill the mites.
“Here at Purdue we‘re trying to breed for bees that are more resistant to these mites,” he says. “We‘re selecting bees that will actually bite the mites. They groom them off themselves and they bit them.”
Hunt says it is important to boost the bee population which remains crucial for agriculture and food. Bees pollinate plants and of course, produce honey. Hunt says the official bee population in Indiana is well over 10,000 hives and each hive holds anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 bees.