For the last two decades, scientists all over the world have been scratching their brains, trying to figure out why honeybees have been dying.The problem, referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder, is so severe that they have even resorted to fitting the bees with microchips to figure out what is going on.
One of the biggest culprits identified was the Varroa Destructor, a parasitic mite that attaches to the body of the bee and feeds of its hemolymph - the fluid that runs through its body. The devastation caused by this parasite on honeybee colonies all over the world has been significant - Britain alone has recorded a 60 percent decline in its honeybee population, since it was infested with this pesticide-resistant mite in 1992.
One of the victims of this catastrophe was Swindon beekeeper Ron Hoskins, who lost thousands of bees to the Varroa Destructor. While researching how to solve the problem, he discovered that one of his 80 hives seemed to be more resilient to the parasite and was not losing as many bees.
On examining them closely he saw that the bees from the hive had tiny marks on their bodies, left by where the parasites had been. So while this colony had not been spared, its residents had been smart enough to 'groom' each other and extract the mite from each other's bodies.
Excited by the discovery, the former engineer has spent the last eighteen years trying to crossbreed his other bees with this super smart bee, nicknamed 'The Swindon Bee'. Now, he finally has a mite-resistant hive, and is hoping to get funding to help expand his research and increase the population of the Swindon Bee, in order to introduce it to beekeepers all over the world and try save this little creature from extinction.
Losing honeybees does not only mean losing our supply of honey, but also most of our produce too. That's because these hardworking insects are responsible for pollinating most of our fruit orchards, grain fields and vegetable crops, whose economic value is estimated to be over $200 billion USD. Without them, we would not have a lot of the great food that we are used to consuming.