Bees disappearing as mystery ailment sweeps U.S.

  1. Bees are vanishing across the United States, leaving empty colonies behind and putting honey production in jeopardy -- and nobody knows why.
    California beekeeper David Bradshaw said he's trying not to dwell on the fact that half his bees are gone.
    "I'd be an emotional mess if I just kept thinking about the bees dying," he told CTV News.
    Experts gathered in Washington Thursday at a House Agriculture Subcommittee, describing the mysterious threat as "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD).
    The remains of dead bees usually remain inside a hive, unless worker bees carry their bodies them out. But colonies affected by CCD show no signs of the ailment, aside from a notable absence of mature bees.
    It's possible the affected bees abandon the hive before dying, but scientists have yet to understand why or how.
    In the past six months, U.S. beekeepers estimate they have lost between 50 and 90 per cent of their honeybees. One colony can have 60,000 bees in the summer, and that number drops to about 20,000 in the winter.
    The condition of Canada's bees is not fully known, but the U.S. Congress was told it's likely Canadian hives likely share a similar fate.
    "Recently, we have reports out of Canada that they have the exact same symptoms and collapses ongoing there," said Diana Cox-Foster, a professor of entomology with the Pennsylvania State University.
    Scientists, beekeepers and officials started a CCD group in December 2006 to examine the cause of the disorder, and hopefully find a cure.
    Not only are bees crucial to the agriculture industry in the production of honey, they also work as pollinators. Roughly 75 per cent of flowering plants require pollinators to bear fruit, including crops that produce the resources needed for drugs and fuel.
    Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of Montana and Penn State are leading the study of CCD.
    So far, they have noticed that affected colonies are still active, with remaining bees looking after developing bees. But when a colony is weakened, it's usually taken over by rival bees and other insects looking for honey.
    And when scientists examined individual bees in affected colonies, they showed weakened immune systems and an increase in bacteria and foreign fungi.
    Caird E. Rexroad, from the Agricultural Research Service, echoed that fact when he testified in front of the committee Thursday.
    "We believe that some form of stress may be suppressing immune systems of bees, ultimately contributing to CCD," CNN quoted Rexroad as saying.
    U.S. beekeepers had already taken a huge hit from varroa mite, a parasite that killed more than half of some colonies and also affected wild honeybee hives.
    With a report by CTV's Tom Walters and files from The Associated Press
     
  2. whoa. i don't even know what to say. that's pretty frightening.
     
  3. I know! I would imagine beekeepers would become attached to their bees after a while.

    And sometimes, that's a beekeeper's main source of income.


    In Canada, lots of hives are being destroyed because of the dramatic change in climate.


    It's scary! Those poor bees and those poor beekeepers!
     
  4. Very scary but I'm allergic, so............ well, you know what I mean
     
  5. Mysterious die-off of honeybees explained

    A virus - first identified in Israel, then seen in Australia - may be to blame for widespread honeybee carnage in U.S., scientists say

    MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT
    ENVIRONMENT REPORTER
    September 7, 2007

    The sudden and mysterious disappearance of honeybees in the United States over the past year may be due to a virus, according to a new research paper by an international team of scientists.
    The pathogen, called Israeli acute paralysis virus, was detected in almost all bee hives tested during a survey of hives afflicted by what has become known as colony collapse disorder. The pathogen is rarely found in healthy hives.
    The discovery will likely help put to rest rampant speculation about the source of the strange collapse in U.S. bee populations.
    Beekeepers in the United States began noticing slight declines in bee numbers in 2004. The scale of deaths increased dramatically in the past year, with some apiaries losing up to 90 per cent of their hives. The workers in colonies of the highly social insects would disappear without a trace.
    The enormous scale of the destruction prompted worry that some new environmental threat might be killing useful insects. Some speculated that the missing bees might have become disoriented by the recent proliferation of radiation from cellphone towers and died while foraging for nectar. Others theorized that new genetically modified crops were poisoning the bees.
    But scientists who worked on the new research, which is being published in the current issue of Science Express, now believe the most likely explanation is a new infectious agent.
    "Our extensive study suggests that the Israeli acute paralysis may be a potential cause of colony collapse disorder," said Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University.
    The death of bees had caused widespread alarm in the agricultural industry. Although most people associate bees with honey, the insects are far more important for their role in pollinating crops. About 90 foods, ranging from apples to cucumbers, depend on bees to ensure that fruits and vegetables develop.
    Any threat to bee numbers could affect the global food supply. An estimated $2-billion worth of crops in Canada depend on honeybees for pollination, and about $15-billion in the United States, where the collapse has already led to difficulties in pollinating crops.
    The researchers also found the virus on live bees imported into the United States from Australia, and in royal jelly samples from China. Royal jelly is the food bees produce for queens, but it is also sold as a health food for humans.
    The discovery of the virus has raised speculation that the United States inadvertently allowed it into the country through the import of Australian bees. This was allowed in 2004, at the urging of the agricultural industry, to boost the number of hives available for pollinating high-value crops such as almonds.
    The import of the bees coincided with the first reports of unusual problems in bee colonies.
    All the hives infected with the virus either used Australian bees, or were stored near colonies that imported the insects.
    To date, Canada has had no known cases of colony collapse disorder, said Danny Walker, president of the Ontario Beekeepers' Association.
    He said Canada doesn't allow the importation of entire bee colonies from Australia, although it does allow apiaries to buy individual queens, which are then seeded into domestic hives.
    Scientists who discovered the virus, and analyzed genes of micro-organisms found in bees, said they do not know if the pathogen itself causes colonies to die off, or whether it weakens the bees and makes them more susceptible to pesticides, poor nutrition and parasitic mites.
    The virus was first described in Israel in 2004, leading to its name. Researchers there noted that infected bees - which exhibited shivering wings and paralysis - would die just outside their hives.
    One perplexing finding is that bees in Australia don't seem to be affected by colony collapse disorder. The researchers speculated the reason might be that bees there are not infected with varroa mites, which are found throughout in North America. The mites suppress the immune system of bees, making them more vulnerable to other threats.

    (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20070907.HONEY07/TPStory/Environment)
     
  6. And we had so many damn bees this year AGAIN - our bushes go insane with bees from May until June with thousands of them!!!!! :sad:
     
  7. This scares the crap out of me. I hope they are able to figure this out. No bees = no us.