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  • (Music)

  • These bees are in my backyard in Berkeley, California.

  • Until last year, I'd never kept bees before,

  • but National Geographic asked me to photograph a story about them,

  • and I decided, to be able to take compelling images,

  • I should start keeping bees myself.

  • And as you may know,

  • bees pollinate one third of our food crops,

  • and lately they've been having a really hard time.

  • So as a photographer, I wanted to explore what this problem really looks like.

  • So I'm going to show you what I found over the last year.

  • This furry little creature

  • is a fresh young bee halfway emerged from its brood cell,

  • and bees right now are dealing with several different problems,

  • including pesticides, diseases, and habitat loss,

  • but the single greatest threat is a parasitic mite from Asia,

  • Varroa destructor.

  • And this pinhead-sized mite crawls onto young bees

  • and sucks their blood.

  • This eventually destroys a hive

  • because it weakens the immune system of the bees,

  • and it makes them more vulnerable to stress and disease.

  • Now, bees are the most sensitive

  • when they're developing inside their brood cells,

  • and I wanted to know what that process really looks like,

  • so I teamed up with a bee lab at U.C. Davis

  • and figured out how to raise bees in front of a camera.

  • I'm going to show you the first 21 days of a bee's life

  • condensed into 60 seconds.

  • This is a bee egg as it hatches into a larva,

  • and those newly hatched larvae swim around their cells

  • feeding on this white goo that nurse bees secrete for them.

  • Then, their head and their legs slowly differentiate

  • as they transform into pupae.

  • Here's that same pupation process,

  • and you can actually see the mites running around in the cells.

  • Then the tissue in their body reorganizes

  • and the pigment slowly develops in their eyes.

  • The last step of the process is their skin shrivels up

  • and they sprout hair.

  • (Music)

  • So -- (Applause)

  • As you can see halfway through that video,

  • the mites were running around on the baby bees,

  • and the way that beekeepers typically manage these mites

  • is they treat their hives with chemicals.

  • In the long run, that's bad news,

  • so researchers are working on finding alternatives

  • to control these mites.

  • This is one of those alternatives.

  • It's an experimental breeding program at the USDA Bee Lab in Baton Rouge,

  • and this queen and her attendant bees are part of that program.

  • Now, the researchers figured out

  • that some of the bees have a natural ability to fight mites,

  • so they set out to breed a line of mite-resistant bees.

  • This is what it takes to breed bees in a lab.

  • The virgin queen is sedated

  • and then artificially inseminated using this precision instrument.

  • Now, this procedure allows the researchers

  • to control exactly which bees are being crossed,

  • but there's a tradeoff in having this much control.

  • They succeeded in breeding mite-resistant bees,

  • but in that process, those bees started to lose traits

  • like their gentleness and their ability to store honey,

  • so to overcome that problem,

  • these researchers are now collaborating with commercial beekeepers.

  • This is Bret Adee opening one of his 72,000 beehives.

  • He and his brother run the largest beekeeping operation in the world,

  • and the USDA is integrating their mite-resistant bees into his operation

  • with the hope that over time,

  • they'll be able to select the bees that are not only mite-resistant

  • but also retain all of these qualities that make them useful to us.

  • And to say it like that

  • makes it sound like we're manipulating and exploiting bees,

  • and the truth is, we've been doing that for thousands of years.

  • We took this wild creature and put it inside of a box,

  • practically domesticating it,

  • and originally that was so that we could harvest their honey,

  • but over time we started losing our native pollinators,

  • our wild pollinators,

  • and there are many places now where those wild pollinators

  • can no longer meet the pollination demands of our agriculture,

  • so these managed bees have become an integral part of our food system.

  • So when people talk about saving bees,

  • my interpretation of that

  • is we need to save our relationship to bees,

  • and in order to design new solutions,

  • we have to understand the basic biology of bees

  • and understand the effects of stressors that we sometimes cannot see.

  • In other words, we have to understand bees up close.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

(Music)

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B2 US TED mite bee resistant usda lab

Anand Varma: A thrilling look at the first 21 days of a bee’s life

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    CUChou posted on 2015/07/28
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