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Wildlife Rehabilitation
Endangered Honeybees
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Endangered Honeybees
To prevent bees from the disastrous effects of parasites, farmers and beekeepers have used miticides that have proved effective. From 2000 to the present, a growing problem is that mites are building up resistance to the early, more benign miticides. In turn, as WILD TV entomologist Mace Vaughan says, "Scientists and farmers alike hope bees will respond to parasites by becoming more resistant to their harmful effects." To this end, Cornell University has established the Honeybee Genetics and Integrated Pest Management Center, a breeding program that emphasizes the development of mite-resistant stocks of honeybees. Newer pesticides help protect bees but are more toxic to humans, and therefore require more careful use by beekeepers to prevent contamination of honey and wax. So while it has become harder for beekeepers to do their work, managed colonies are surviving.

Another factor contributing to the decline of feral colonies is the loss of native plant habitats to shopping malls, business corridors, parking lots and housing developments. Ideally, honeybees need a big cavity (usually in the middle of a big tree) that contains about 40 liters or 10 gallons in volume, to make their home in the wild. These kinds of cavities are usually found in the middle of big trees, but with deforestation, there are not nearly as many suitable trees left standing as there used to be.

Finally, agriculture and grazing practices have had a negative effect on wild bee populations, and not just of honeybees but of native, solitary, semi-social bees, and bumble bees. Native vegetation and prairies filled with flowering plants have been replaced with pasture grasses for cattle ranching and vast plantings of single-species crops. One study of grazing practices found evidence of sheep removing pollinator food resources, destroying underground nests, and direct trampling of bees.

Introduced by Europeans to the U.S. hundreds of years ago, honeybees have since been performing the seemingly simple and random act of carrying pollen from the anthers (boy parts) of one plant to the stigma (girl parts) of another. Perhaps only now, when feral honeybees are endangered, might we recognize how important they really are.

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Parasites are the primary reason honeybees are endangered

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