February 06, 2020
Honeybee numbers have been declining worldwide. Many different causes for this decline have been put forward, as have many possible ways to mitigate the number of bees dying. Increasingly researchers are looking to novel techniques as technology advances to protect bee populations, as honeybees are an essential part of our natural ecosystem.
Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have been working to develop a genetically engineered bacteria that will modify the microbiome of honeybees. The team say that the altered bacteria work to improve bee health by living in their gut and producing chemicals that protect the bees from varroa mites and deformed wing virus.
The honeybees in this study were sprayed with these beneficial bacteria which they then ingested. After ingesting the engineered bacteria the bees’ immune systems were better able to protect them from the deformed wing virus, and the bees were also better protected from varroa mites. This modified bacteria is designed specifically to live in honeybees to limit any potential spread to other organisms. Further studies are required to verify results and understand the benefits and risks prior to use, still this may be a future option in our toolbox to halt honeybee decline.
Source: Phys Org
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