A study by researchers at the University of Maryland has shown that genetics is the likely factor responsible for shorter honey bee lifespans today compared to 50 years ago. The common belief was that environmental factors causing stress to the bees were responsible for their shorter lifespan but this study points towards genetics being the actual culprit. The study isolated bees from a colony just before they became adults so the bees could live in a controlled lab environment without environmental stressors. The researchers were experimenting with changes in the lab bees' diets when they found that no matter what the bees were fed they all had an average lifespan of 17.7 days, approximately half of the 34.3-day lifespan observed in bees in the 1970s. Mortality rates doubled over this time and since the lab conditions are free of environmental stressors, it is likely that genetics, rather than environmental factors are the cause of the shorter bee lifespan. The researchers have said that the shorter lifespan has been linked to less foraging time in the wild, lower honey production, and colony loss. The next step of the researchers is to increase the sample size by looking at more bees throughout the US and abroad.
I think this article was informative and hope more work is done to identify the genes responsible for the shorter bee lifespan. Bees are very important to humans as 75% of the number of crops we grow are dependant on bees for pollination and one-third of global crop production relies on bees, and $200-600 billion of annual global food production depends on bees. This shows why bees are extremely valuable to humans and why studying them is important, and why we need to do more research on why bee lifespans are declining and what we can do to stop it.