Honeybees In Mississippi Are Threatened By Disease


Pine Belt, Mississippi (WDAM) Tiny honeybees bear the weight of the world’s vast agricultural economy on their wings.

However, a disease is creeping through the colonies, threatening the insects’ lives as well as one of Mississippi’s most valuable crops, blueberries.

For many years, beekeepers across North America have reported detecting European Foulbrood Disease, or EFB, in blueberry-pollinating colonies.

Scientists from numerous West Coast colleges have joined a two-year field project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture to examine the cause of EFB and provide strategies to mitigate its consequences.

Dr. Priya Basu is an assistant professor of pollinator health and agriculture at Mississippi State University.

She and her crew are part of the new project, which is collaborating with a blueberry farm in Wiggins and beekeepers in Forrest and Stone counties to investigate the illness.

Basu reported that over half the commercial honeybees in the United States died last year.

And, while EFB is just one of many threats to colonies, understanding its origin will ease beekeepers’ stress as pollination demand rises.

The beekeepers are under enormous pressure to rebuild the colonies since pollination demands are only increasing,” Basu added. “So, beekeepers must give the same amount of colonies year after year.

“They must continue to separate colonies and devise techniques to keep them alive for extended periods. So, that’s increased stress.”

Basu stated that, while EFB can be treated with antibiotics, the honey produced by treated bees cannot be sold for human consumption.

The Federal Drug Administration stated that beekeepers must wait several weeks after treating their bees with antibiotics before harvesting honey for sale.

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