Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Diseases of the Hive – Honeybees get Sick just like we do!

I think everyone can remember a time when you were sick, and you had a parent, grandparent, or friend take care of you to help you get better. Beekeepers take care of their honeybees when they get sick, just like when someone took care of you! Today, I’m going to talk about different honeybee pests and diseases.

This hive as a jar of sugar syrup to make sure the bees
have enough food. 
One way honeybees get sick is when they get a virus. Viruses are a lot like a cold. There’s not much beekeepers can do to treat them; rather, they just try to keep their hives healthy to avoid them. Beekeepers can try to keep their honeybees healthy by making sure they have plenty of honey, pollen, and water, and they can make sure their hive is prepared for the cold winter months. Beekeepers keep a close eye on their bees for any signs of disease, but sometimes even beekeepers who have been keeping bees for many years still have beehives that get sick. One very common pest in the hive is called a mite.

This is a close up picture of a mite.
It's usually only the size of a tip of a
The mite is a parasitic insect that is very tiny – only about the size of a tip of a sewing needle. The mite attaches itself to the honeybee and sucks its blood. Eventually, there are so many mites in every hive that they weaken the colony, and if it isn’t treated, the colony may die. When many of the bees have been attacked by mites, the adult bees in the hive become too weak to take care of the brood. Think of it this way: if your mom and dad were sick, it would be much harder for them to care of you. Thankfully, beekeepers can reduce the number of mites in a beehive by using medications or special equipment.

 A close up picture of a mite on the honeybee's back. 
There are many other diseases that affect honeybees. Beekeepers try to keep their honeybees healthy and avoid disease. It’s important to us, too. Since honeybees get sick, it’s important for us to help the beekeepers who care for the honeybees that pollinate so much of the food that we love. If you want to help honeybees you could plant some honeybee friendly flowers, buy local honey from a beekeeper, or even tell a friend how important they are for us.

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