UNLV Studies the Lifespan of Honeybees

Honeybees across the country and in Europe have been dying off. Scientists and bee keepers are calling the syndrome "Colony Collapse Disorder" and possible culprits include parasites and bacteria.

Experts agree that without honeybees, human existence would be a lot more challenging. The insects help sustain life through pollination. Experts believe its important to take good care of the bee and now a colony of them in Las Vegas is getting $600,000 worth of attention.

UNLV biology student Michael Treat has the tedious task of marking the backs of 10,000 bees. Once marked, they become part of a research project on the effects of age and behavior on the lifespan of honey bees.

Treat says that working with bees is not that bad. "When they're babies and they just came out, they're pretty nice. I wish they would remember me once we get them outside," said Michael Treat, UNLV biology major.

They're not as aggressive and defensive as they are in the field. Professor Michelle Elekonich studies stress and aging in honey bees. She says when a bee is pollinating, they're working harder than the most elite of human athletes. But soon after the bee's task is done, they begin to die.

UNLV's School of Life Sciences has been awarded over $600,000 to take a closer look. "So everybody's interested in whether if you live hard, do you die younger? And we're trying to ask that question," said Dr. Michelle Elekonich, UNLV researcher.

On the subject of aging, knowledge gained from studying the muscles of a bee may eventually be useful in better understanding humans.

"Those muscles are very much like our muscles. So we're looking at the cellular processes that protect those muscles during extreme use. And how those play into aging and lifespan," Elekonich said.

Research elsewhere shows that honeybee colonies have been disappearing across the United States. Professor Elekonich says its important to find out why.

"Many of the plants that produce our food and are around us for beauty, are essentially dependent on the bees being there to move the pollen around and get the plant to produce its fruit or vegetable," she said.

The three-year honeybee study at UNLV is being funded by the National Science Foundation.


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