To bee or not to bee... a question of species’ survival

To bee or not to bee.. the question is whether mankind can continue to exist without them.

Nina Brancato from Sutton, Dublin at the launch of the new Junior Pollinator Plan in Blessington Street Basin Park. Picture: Photocall

According to Albert Einstein, the human race would disappear in a couple of generations without the pollinating work of our flying friends but the reality is that they are fast becoming an endangered species.

But not if Nina Brancato has anything to do with it.

The four-year-old from Sutton in Dublin is pictured, above, at the launch of the new junior pollinator plan in Blessington Street Basin Park which includes an array of plants that welcome pollinators.

Beehives are also in the park, cared for by Kaethe Burt-O’Dea and Nikki Moans who work to connect nature with people in Dublin’s inner city. This junior version of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020 is a collaboration of the steering group of the original plan, Willfredd Theatre and The Ark. Its launch coincides with the musical which opens on February 13 at The Ark in Dublin’s Temple Bar.

It promises to be a fun event but the cause it espouses is deadly serious. According to new research, the spread of a disease that is decimating global bee populations is manmade and driven by European honeybee populations.

The study found that the European honeybee Apis mellifera is overwhelmingly the source of cases of the deformed wing virus infecting hives worldwide. The finding suggests that the pandemic is manmade rather than naturally occurring — with human trade and transportation of bees for crop pollination driving the spread.

The situation is adding to fears over the future of global bee populations, with major implications for biodiversity, agricultural biosecurity, global economies, and human health.

Lead author Lena Wilfert, from the University of Exeter, said: “This is the first study to conclude that Europe is the backbone of the global spread of the bee-killing combination of deformed wing virus and varroa.

“This significantly strengthens the theory that human transportation of bees is responsible for the spread of this devastating disease. We must now maintain strict limits on the movement of bees, whether they are known to carry varroa or not.”

Roger Butlin, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Sheffield, said: “Our study has found that the deformed wing virus is a major threat to honeybee populations across the world and this epidemic has been driven by the trade and movement of honeybee colonies.

“Domesticated honeybee colonies are hugely important for our agriculture systems, but this study shows the risks of moving animals and plants around the world.

“The consequences can be devastating, both for domestic animals and for wildlife. The risk of introducing viruses or other pathogens is just one of many potential dangers.”

The study, which was led by the University of Exeter and UC Berkeley and included contributions from the universities of Sheffield, Cambridge and Salford, is published in the journal Science.



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