Long Island teen researches honeybee crisis

Joe McInnis, 14, of Greenport, Long Island, is trying to solve the global honeybee problem. He is working with wax worms to see if a virus transmitted to honeybees could be the reason we're losing them.

"Thirty percent of the world's food supply relies on bees," he says. "Thirty percent of the bees are dying."

They are dying because of a phenomenon known to scientists as colony collapse disorder -- when the majority of bees in a colony disappear for unexplained reasons.

"Our theory is we think there's an AIDS-like reaction between two elements in the hive that are causing them to die," Joe says.

With help from scientists, Joe has essentially been doing work equivalent to that of graduate students. He is exploring a theory that bees and worms are subjected to a virus that weakens the immune system and enables secondary infections.

"Iridovirus 6 is a virus that iridesces insects if they get enough of it," Joe says. "Nosema is a spore in beehives that's naturally found. And nosema isn't normally harmful to the bees but we think the iridovirus is slowing down the immune system."

Joe works with retired biology teacher Robert Jester. He injected a virus into the worms to see if they turn blue. This would indicate an infection.

"Whether his hypothesis comes out right or wrong is not important," Jester says. "If he follows this to the end he will have answered at least a science question."

Within the next few months, Joey plans to start working with honeybees to hopefully identify a possible cause of colony collapse. His ultimate goal is to publish a scientific paper before he graduates high school.