Alaska Truly Last Frontier for Bee Research
Bee populations are much studied, and research has accelerated in the last few years due to concerns about rapidly declining numbers. But in the wilds of Alaska, little in known about how bumble bees live.
A team of researchers spent two years studying the bees’ habitat, health, and behaviors to describe current conditions, or in research parlance “get a baseline”, for future studies.
The threat to bumble bees in the lower 48 is due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which has devastated farm-managed bee populations. Theories about the cause of CCD abound: poor beekeeping management techniques, pesticides, and even aluminum in the environment.
Like their flying brethren in the lower states, the Alaskan bees also test positive for Nosema, a microsporidian parasite associated with CCD. Their numbers, making up about 10% of the Alaskan bee population, are robust, however.
Lack of prior study makes bee population “normal” impossible to describe in Klondike territory, however. Researchers hope that by establishing a good description of bee activity now, the trend in bee health can be better understood a few years down the road.