An Update on Honey Bee Health

I have blogged about declining honey bee populations.  Beekeepers around the world have reported unusually high rates of decline in bee colonies.  The U.S. lost 44 percent of its bees last year.  Keep in mind that one third of our human food supply depends on pollination by bees.

Agilent Senior Scientist Anthony Macherone recently published a cover article for Chromatography Online about honey bee health.  In a pilot study, Agilent and Johns Hopkins University researchers examined bee populations using exposomics.

Exposomics (another previous blog topic) studies cumulative exposures over an individual’s lifetime.  It looks at anything that may trigger a biological response, including environmental pollutants, diet, stresses and internal biochemistry.  Exposomics provides a comprehensive framework for understanding possible causes of chronic disease.

In the case of bees, their decline has been attributed to everything from parasites to pesticides to habitat loss.  Recent spraying in South Carolina to combat the Zika virus accidentally killed millions of bees.

In Agilent’s pilot study, researchers used Agilent GC-QTOF-MS and PCR technologies to identify chemical biomarkers associated with bee disease.  One notable profile showed increased chemical levels associated with infestation by Noema ceranae, a deadly bee parasite.

Agilent has awarded a $50,000 grant to Haverford College to further explore the exposome of western honey bees, using state-of-the-art chemical measurement and DNA characterization.  The researchers hope to develop tools that will enable beekeepers to track the health of their colonies using noninvasive methods.

Anthony Macherone is a Senior Scientist with Agilent and a Visiting Scientist at the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  He is an industry expert in liquid and gas phase chromatography and exposomics.

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