Friday, June 17, 2011

Colony Collapse Disorder: Scientific Update

Science & Nature

Starting the Honey-Making Process: A European honey bee (Apis mellifera) extracts nectar from an Aster flower using its proboscis. Tiny hairs covering the bee's body maintain a slight electrostatic charge, causing pollen from the flower's anthers to stick to the bee, allowing for pollination when the bee moves on to another flower.
Photo Credit: John Severns, 2007
Source: Wikipedia
I have written a couple of blog posts on what is ailing the bees, whose absence affects the agricultural sector and our food supply. (See Where Have the Bees Gone? and The Honeybee: Working for Humanity's Sake).  
   In 2006, beekeepers took note of a disturbing finding, the death of bee colonies, which has been called colony collapse disorder, or CCD, where worker bees from a beehive disappear and don't return. To date, millions of bee colonies, equating to billions of bees,  have vanished.
   Root causes put forward have ranged from environmental factors to pathogens and pesticides to cell-phone radiation. As of yet, there is no scientifically verifiable explanation. Here is the latest scientific finding.

In a 10-month study, scientists at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have identified four new viruses that infect bees, providing another clue in the as-yet unexplained phenomena known as colony collapse disorder.

The study followed 20 colonies of a commercial beekeeping operation that contains more than 70,000 hives, and followed the bees as they were transported from Mississippi to South Dakota and then to California pollinating crops. The chief question that the study was trying to answer was what viruses and bacteria exist in a normal colony throughout the year. This would establish a baseline standard, crucial for further research.

"We brought a quantitative view of what real migrating populations look like in terms of disease,” Joseph DeRisi, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, said. “You can’t begin to understand colony die-off without understanding what normal is.” 

The study tracked 27 viruses that affect honeybees, including four new viruses that were previously unknown, says
During the survey of the hives' "microbiome," they discovered four new viruses and a trypasnosome, a type of single-celled parasite, which had never been identified before. One new viruses, the Lake Sinai 2 virus, was found in very high concentrations, up to 1 hundred billion copies of the virus per bee in some hives. [10 Most Diabolical and Disgusting Parasites]
Since these viruses were found in healthy hives, they can now be ruled out as the leading causes of colony collapse disorder. The research team's findings have been published in an online journal, Public Library of Science, PLoS ONE (June 7): "Temporal Analysis of the Honey Bee Microbiome Reveals Four Novel Viruses and Seasonal Prevalence of Known Viruses, Nosema, and Crithidia." The scientific detective work continues. I will keep you posted.

 Here is some more information from some news sites:
A 10-month study of healthy honey bees by University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) scientists has identified four new viruses that infect bees, while revealing that each of the viruses or bacteria previously linked to colony collapse is present in healthy hives as well. More UCSF

Researchers have identified four new viruses that infect healthy honeybees, potential clues that may help them better understand why colonies are dying.  More Bloomberg

During a ten-month study of healthy honey bees, scientists identified four new viruses and established a baseline for studying bee colony collapse, revealing that all the bacteria and viruses previously linked to the disorder also live in normal colonies. More Digital Journal

Even healthy bee colonies are constantly under attack from viruses, bacteria, fungi and other parasites. New research finds that these pathogen levels are constantly in flux in colonies, information that could help rule out the prime suspects in colony collapse disorder. More:

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