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Thursday, March 25, 2010

HoneyBee Colony Collapse Disorder finally understood?

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David Gutierrez
Natural News
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

"A combination of toxic chemicals and pathogens are probably to blame for colony collapse disorder in honeybees, according to a study conducted by researchers at Washington State University."

"Researchers conducted careful studies to uncover contributors to the disorder, in which seemingly healthy bees simply vanish from a hive, leaving the queen and a handful of newly hatched adults behind."

“One of the first things we looked at was the pesticide levels in the wax of older honeycombs,”
researcher Steve Sheppard said.

"The researchers acquired used hives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, finding that they had “fairly high levels of pesticide residue.” When bees were raised in these hives, they had “significantly reduced longevity,” the researchers said."

"Prior research by scientists from Pennsylvania State University found unprecedentedly high levels of two pesticides in every sample of honeycomb or foundation wax tested, as well as lower levels of 70 other pesticides."

"The pesticides found in the highest concentrations were fluvalinate and coumaphos, used to eradicate the bee pest varroa mites, which have themselves been suggested as a cause of colony collapse."

“We do not know that these chemicals have anything to do with colony collapse disorder, but they are definitely stressors in the home and in the food sources,” said Penn State researcher Maryann Frazier. “Pesticides alone have not shown they are the cause of [colony collapse disorder]. We believe that it is a combination of a variety of factors, possibly including mites, viruses and pesticides.”

"The Washington State researchers uncovered another potential cause, which likely interacts with chemicals to contribute to colony collapse: the pathogen Nosema ceranae, which entered the United States around 1997 and has since spread to bee hives across the country. The pathogen attacks bees’ ability to process food and makes them more susceptible to chemicals and other infections."

“What it basically does is it causes bees to get immune-deficiency disorder,” said beekeeper  Mark Pitcher of Babe’s Honey. “So it’s actually causing the bees to almost get a version of HIV.”


I took an entomology course at the University of Alberta in Edmonton in the 1980's and at that time I remember my professor telling us that Entomologists had tried to develop new ways of controlling insect pests, using less toxic chemicals, and by using known predatory insects to kill pest insects. I also remember him telling us that the main problem in using pesticides is that insects develop resistance to these chemicals very quickly, because insects breed so quickly and so often in a short period of time. And now not only do these chemicals have a shorter period of use due to their inefficiency over time, but now they seem to be implicated as a main factor in Colony Collapse Disorder. In the case of bees, if those in the bee industry stop using known pesticides as part of their daily interaction with bees, this may reduce the likelihood that their bee hives develop Colony Collapse Disorder, however,as stated above, then the real problem will be to find a way to control the bee pest varroa mites,which have been implicated as one of the "causes" of Colony Collapse Disorder. Talk about a huge dilemma for bees and for science!! In the best case scenario, if scientists could find some predatory insect or for that matter any kind of living matter which could be used to control the varroa mite,then this problem with Colony Collapse Disorder might be solved. However, how long will this take to accomplish, when a solution is needed today? What is really problematic about the varroa mite is that "up to 85% of the mites in a colony are in capped brood cells and not visually detectable." (source: )

Fortunately, honey bees themselves are part of the solution to CCD. "Varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH) is a behavioral trait of honey bees (Apis mellifera) in which bees detect and remove bee pupae that are infested by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. V. destructor is considered to be the most dangerous pest problem for honey bees worldwide. VSH activity results in significant resistance to the mites."

"Bees with the trait were initially bred by the USDA Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Laboratory in Baton Rouge, LA from colonies in which mite populations grew only slowly.The factor causing slow mite population growth was found to be heritable. The rate of mite population growth was found to be correlated with the reproductive rates of mites, resulting in naming the factor “suppressed mite reproduction” (SMR). It was subsequently discovered that the factor is founded on hygienic activity of adult bees, so SMR was renamed VSH. VSH activity results in an abnormally large proportion of any mites remaining in a colony to have low reproductive success. The specifics of how hygienic bees detect mite infested brood currently are unknown.
Bees bred to have high levels of VSH tend to keep mite populations below thresholds recommended for treatment with pesticides.Queens from such VSH breeding sources can be allowed to mate freely with non-VSH drones, and the resulting hybrid colonies from these outcrosses will retain lower and variable but generally still useful resistance to V. destructor while retaining desirable beekeeping traits such as honey production."

"Agriculture Research Service scientists at the agency’s Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit in Baton Rouge, LA have developed honey bees with a high expression of this VSH trait. The VSH is a specific trait and form of hive hygiene that not all honeybees possess. The VSH developed bees show an aggressive pursuit of Varroa in the hive.
The Bees form groups and chew through an mite infested cell cap, lift out the infected brood and eject them from the broodnest.
This hygiene destroys the mite’s frail offspring preventing the reproductive output of the mites and preventing the usual Varroa mite hive takeover!
The team at ARS conducted field trials using 40 colonies with varying levels of VSH bees contained in each colony. The mite population growth was significantly lower in the VSH and hybrid colonies than in the colonies without VSH developed bees." (source:

Let us hope that bees can be bred so they they all soon possess this VSH trait. Alot of the food we now eat depends on this happening in the near future!! "Honey bees play a critical role in agriculture. The most important role honey bees play is actually not honey production, but pollination. The value of crops that require pollination by honey bees, in the United States alone, is estimated to be around $24 billion each year and commercial bee pollination was valued around $10 billion annually. There is also a trend to consume more bee-pollinated crops (such as fruits and vegetables), making honey bees more and more important in agriculture.Honey bees also produce honey and beeswax, which are valued at $285 million in US annually. Besides that bees also produce pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and bee venom that are playing increasing roles in health food and alternative medicine. Bee stings are routinely used for treatment of arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other auto-immune diseases." (source: )

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The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.