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Building a Better Bee

DAVIS, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Bees are disappearing by the millions! No one knows for sure what's happening, but what we do know is we all need bees. More than $15 billion dollars in crops are pollinated by bees each year in the United States alone. Scientists are now creating the perfect bee to keep our crops thriving.

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Franklin Carrier has been caring for bees for 52 years.

"I've been stung about 5,000 times," Carrier told Ivanhoe.

Not bad, since he keeps 500,000 bees. Franklin says he's caught bee fever.

"I just love bees!" Carrier said. "That's all there is to it."

Carrier's hives have one queen. She lays about 2,000 eggs a day. There are 1,000 drones, males whose only job is to mate with the queen. The other 50,000 female worker bees feed and care for the queen.

Millions of bees are being wiped out by mites. Other theories of their demise include pesticides and global warming. Now, entomologists at UC Davis are working to build a better, stronger bee.

"We're looking at stocks that are selected in Europe that are more resistant to pests and diseases." Susan Cobey, an entomologist at UC Davis, told Ivanhoe.

Cobey is cross-breeding her New World Carniolan bees with Old World Carniolans from Germany. She places the queen bee inside a tube and artificially inseminates her to produce what researchers hope will be a line of bees that are very productive, winter hardy, well-tempered and more resistant to pests and disease -- which is essential for their -- and our -- survival.

"Without bees, we would have no fruits or vegetables," Cobey said. "They're so essential. Even something as simple as milk; you need to pollinate the alfalfa to feed the cattle to produce the milk and the meat. We are just the foundation of agriculture."

This new, better bee gives Carrier reassurance that his ladies will be there when he gets home.

"With these girls, I get to see them all the time," Carrier said. "They're mine, all mine. Who else in the country has upward of a million young ladies at their beck and call?"

Although worker bees only live a few months, the drones live 90 days and the queen can live up to four years.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Susan Cobey
University of California, Davis
(530) 754-9390

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