Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are of tremendous economic and ecological importance. As pollinators of over 130 crops, honey bees contribute an estimated $14.6 billion per year to the American economy. As a model system for research, their contributions to our understanding of the natural world are invaluable. Research using honey bees as an experimental study system has contributed to our understanding of an interdisciplinary range of subjects, including animal communication, genomics, evolution, immunology, agriculture, aging, economics, and even mathematical modeling.
Honey bees are dying. The number of honey bee colonies not surviving winters is increasing annually. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a modern honey bee disease that is partly responsible for a dramatic decline in the number of adult bees. However, many more honey bee diseases are somewhat common and impact colony survival. Adult bees are vitally important to the survival of the colony because they provide pollen and nectar for the rest of the hive. The behavioral role of honey bees is determined by age, and it is up to the oldest adults to forage for food (e.g., pollen and nectar). Younger adults receive food from incoming foragers and feed the developing larvae and pupae. Recent evidence shows that the immune response also develops with age, whereas old adults have the best ability to resist disease. In the absence of foragers, the disease resistance ability of the hive is weakened, and young adult bees are forced to leave the hive in search of food. Yet, without a fully developed immune system, these premature foragers are likely bringing back much more than just food, but also disease-causing microbes (i.e., pathogens). As such, the stability of local and global food production remains in question.
Boston’s Best Bees™ provides an opportunity for the everyday person to make a difference. Gardens with flowering plants are important food sources for honey bees. Urban gardens, such as community plots or green rooftops, create new habitat for honey bees to thrive in. Together, we are saving the world…one honey bee at a time.™