Friday, September 07, 2007

Whats killing all the Honeybees?



There has been an unusual event occurring in US bee colonies recently, it's called "Colony collapse disorder". This is very significant in that %50 of US bee hives are affected and they are needed to pollinate over 90 different fruit and vegetable crops estimated at $14 billion annually. There are 2 schools of thought about the cause (1) via SFGate.com

A UCSF researcher who found the SARS virus in 2003 and later won a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" for his work thinks he has discovered a culprit in the alarming deaths of honeybees across the United States.

Tests of genetic material taken from a "collapsed colony" in Merced County point to a once-rare microbe that previously affected only Asian bees but might have evolved into a strain lethal to those in Europe and the United States, biochemist Joe DeRisi said Wednesday.

DeRisi said tests conducted on material from dead bees at his Mission Bay lab found genes of the single-celled, spore-producing parasite Nosema ceranae, which researchers in Spain have recently shown is capable of wiping out a beehive.

(2) The 2nd and newest theory is a viral infection cause by the IAPV- Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus

Scientific sleuths have a new suspect for a mysterious affliction that has killed off honeybees by the billions: a virus previously unknown in the United States.

The new found virus may prove to have added nothing more than insult to the injuries bees already suffer, said several experts unconnected to the study.

"This may be a piece or a couple of pieces of the puzzle, but I certainly don't think it is the whole thing," said Jerry Hayes, chief of the apiary section of Florida's Agriculture Department.

Still, surveys of honey bees from decimated colonies turned up traces of the virus nearly every time. Bees untouched by the phenomenon were virtually free of it. That means finding the virus should be a red flag that a hive is at risk and merits a quarantine, scientists said.

Preliminary research shows some bees can integrate genetic information from the virus into their own genomes, apparently giving them resistance, Sela said in a telephone interview. Sela added that about 30 percent of the bees he has examined had done so.

Those naturally "transgenic" honeybees theoretically could be propagated to create stocks of virus-resistant insects, Lipkin said.

While this stuff never makes it to the evening news it has a huge impact on the US Agriculture industry and is something we should watch closely.

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