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Continued: Why are the bees disappearing?

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 24, 2007 - 11:08 PM

Researchers who plan to tackle the problem include Marla Spivak, a researcher and bee expert at the University of Minnesota. Spivak, who attended the two-day USDA summit, has studied the Varroa mite, which over the past 20 years has become a major threat to commercial honeybees. First discovered in the United States in 1987, the mite weakens the bee's immune system. It kills off most bee colonies within a year or two after invading. Beekeepers use pesticides to control the mites, but Spivak has studied ways to breed honeybees that are resistant to it.

"Bees have been dying like crazy just from these parasitic mites alone," Spivak said.

Many researchers, including Spivak, widely dismissed a report that cell phone towers and radio waves may be to blame for the bee's disappearance. The theory has percolated throughout the Internet, despite repeated denunciations by bee researchers.

Scientists who spoke at the conference said a similar problem appeared among bee colonies in the 1960s, according to Kim Kaplan, a USDA spokeswoman. "They were never able to define a cause, and it disappeared," she said.

Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329 • mckinney@startribune.com

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