A cure for honey bee colony depopulation syndrome (a.k.a. colony collapse disorder)?

799px-Honeybee-cooling_cropped This could be encouraging news (via Science Daily):

For the first time, scientists have isolated the parasite Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia) from professional apiaries suffering from honey bee colony depopulation syndrome. They then went on to treat the infection with complete success.

In a study published in the new journal from the Society for Applied Microbiology: Environmental Microbiology Reports, scientists from Spain analysed two apiaries and found evidence of honey bee colony depopulation syndrome (also known as colony collapse disorder in the USA). They found no evidence of any other cause of the disease (such as the Varroa destructor, IAPV or pesticides), other than infection with Nosema ceranae. The researchers then treated the infected surviving under-populated colonies with the antibiotic drug, flumagillin and demonstrated complete recovery of all infected colonies.

More information on Nosema ceranae can be found at Bees for Development, which notes:

In short, we demonstrate that Nosema ceranae probably jumped host from Apis cerana to Apis mellifera within the last decade and that it has spread remarkably rapidly. It is found nowadays in the western honey bee in North and South America, the Caribbean, across Europe (from south to north and west to east) and Asia. Only on the islands of Ireland and New Zealand have we looked but found only Nosema apis. We lack samples from Africa, Australia and the UK to state anything about those locations. However, given its rate of spread and occurrence even on isolated islands of the Danish archipelago, it is quite possible that Nosema ceranae is, or will soon be, spread worldwide.

The new Spanish study can be found here.

There has of course been a huge debate over what could be contributing to the depopulating of honey bees (with cell phone radiation one of the more “out there” proposals), a serious concern because of the important role the bees play in the pollination of crops, fruit and wild flowers. This is the first time this particular parasite has been identified as the primary cause of the problem in professional apiaries, and the fact those apiaries were successfully treated is encouraging. As the principle researcher, Dr. Mariono Higes (who has been exploring the connection between Nosema ceranae and colony collapse disorder for several years), puts it, “Now that we know one strain of parasite that could be responsible, we can look for signs of infection and treat any infected colonies before the infection spreads.”

Of course this doesn’t mean that other factors could still be at play, but solving even a part of the problem is an encouraging step forward.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]bees, colony collapse disorder, biology, parasites, agriculture[/tags]