Harpenden boffins probe mystery of disappearing bees

PUBLISHED: 13:03 12 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:33 06 May 2010

SCIENTISTS in Harpenden have been given a buzz after being awarded £1million to investigate the disappearance of the honeybee. Rothamsted Research and the University of Warwick have joined forces to research the decline of honeybees, a worldwide problem

SCIENTISTS in Harpenden have been given a buzz after being awarded £1million to investigate the disappearance of the honeybee.

Rothamsted Research and the University of Warwick have joined forces to research the decline of honeybees, a worldwide problem which has seen the number of bees fall by 10 to 15 per cent in this country according to UK government figures.

Lead researcher at Rothamsted, Dr Juliet Osborne, said that honeybees were very vulnerable insects.

"Bees living on agricultural landscapes have a lot to deal with, from sudden changes in availability of food to a variety of diseases.

"This project will provide us with a unique insight into how disease and food supply affect the survival of bees in farmed landscapes."

Dr Osborne's project, which is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), will use a combination of field work and computer modelling to look at how the bees' behaviour outside the hive corresponds with what is affecting them inside the hive.

Dr Peter Campbell of Syngenta, which is in partnership with BBSRC, said that he had high hopes for the project: "This work will substantially improve our understanding of the many factors affecting honeybee health.

"A main outcome of the project will be a predictive tool that can help beekeepers improve honeybee health.

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