Will Canada’s Super Bees Save the World from Apollinocalypse?

The decline of bee populations worldwide has been an issue lurking at the back of the mind in agricultural centers.  The general assertion is that honeybees are an important domino in our society and in all of the world’s societies because they provide an important service in food production with their pollination.  Without this pollination these crops would be unable to reproduce and food production would nosedive in no time at all.  But Canadian researchers have the answer, and they say it’s a new breed of “Super bees.”

The genetic engineering of creatures has come under fire in recent years due to the several unknown variables in the process.  Critics say evolution is a slow process for a reason – and that there are millions of genetic variables that have to be taken into account.  And these variables are not always considered by human researchers intending to breed creatures for one single purpose.

For example, dog breeds are all derived from the more primal wolves that were once caught and trained to serve hunters.  Over the centuries these dog breeds changed significantly from one to the other, sometimes not even resembling one another at all.  And yet despite this drastic change they have been wildly successful in the controlled environment of human captivity.  But once they escape from human captivity and return to the wild, these dog breeds specifically designed for tasks such as sheep herding often find it difficult or near impossible to keep up with the wolves they can trace their lineage to.

And now Canadian researchers are doing the same with bees, but with the opposite intention.  The fact of the matter is, bees are needed in massive numbers so the world’s  agricultural community cannot afford a massive population decline – regardless of whether or not human factors are to blame.  The researchers, from Fast Company are not relying on recombining DNA, but rather are using more traditional genetic engineering methods like those used to bring about many dog breeds.  Researchers are selecting the most mite resistant winterized bees who survive in a variety of climates to create a new breed of bees capable of withstanding whatever the Earth’s changes may throw at them.  The intended result is a new gene pool that will produce strong bees that are not affected by the same parasites that would have killed their ancestors.  It is the latest in a long history of research intended to create bees capable of withstanding the elements and then some.

And while it may be an important step toward avoiding a massive food crisis, in 1957 biologist Warwick E. Kerr attempted to breed a new type of honeybee using 26 Tanzanian queen bees in Southeast Brazil.  A laboratory assistant accidentally released the bees, and over the next few decades “killer bees” began their slow trek upward spreading like a virus from the lab.