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Genetically modified bees: a solution to bee disappearance Updated: 2022-05-27 08:05:44 KST

There are currently around 2.1-6 million beehives in South Korea.
Comparing this to the number of beehives from last year, 2.7 million, roughly one in five bees have disappeared in the space of a year.

The disappearance of bees is a problem as fewer bees to spread pollen takes a toll on crops and decreases honey production.

Experts cite the spread of pests caused by climate change as the main reason.
Warm winters over the past two years have caused flowers to bloom earlier in the year, and for shorter periods, resulting in less time for bees to gather nectar.

Bees lacking sufficient nutrient intake suffer from weakened immunity and become vulnerable to various diseases.

"Climate change has caused various pests such as bee mites to thrive, and the excessive use of pesticides has caused the decrease in the number of bees."

South Korean scientists have developed genetically modified bees that can withstand fatal diseases.

Called "Jangwon Honeybee," they look similar to normal bees, but can produce large amounts of virus resistant proteins.
They can fend off "varroa mites," that feed off bee larvae to spread viruses, steal nutrients, and weaken a bee's immune system.

During testing, the Jangwon honeybee didn't become ill even when infected with viruses, and their ability to collect honey improved by 1.3 times.

Technology to increase the number of native bees has also been developed.
Native bees are congenitally incapable of being infected by varroa mites, but became endangered after the spread of the sacbrood virus a decade ago.

The same research team has developed the "Halla-bee" that is completely immune to the sacbrood virus.

"This breed was selected by first collecting bees from an area where native bees lived, testing pest resistance of those bees, and passing on their strengths through dozens of generations."

The research team has plans to develop types of bee that can withstand warmer temperatures so they can respond to climate change.
Jeong Eun-joo, Arirang News
KOGL : Korea Open Government License
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