Tag Archives: bees

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]

Bees and “electrosmog”, Bayer and Clothianidin

bee hive honeycombWe’ve mentioned Colony Collapse Disorder – the official name for the disturbing trend of bee colonies failing around the world – a couple of times before, and it’s a syndrome troubling and mysterious enough to have baffled any number of scientists for a few years now. [image by rockymountainhigh]

Some research has suggested that “electrosmog” (a technophobic UK tabloid media term for the electromagnetic radiation emitted by modern technology) may be the culprit, but via Shaun C Green we find there is a far less widely reported (but far more plausible) explanation of what may be at least a partial cause of CCD – a commercial pesticide called Clothianidin.

Bayer Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Clothianidin, is understandably keen to play down the possibility of its product having such an effect on bee colonies. The substance – rebranded as “Poncho” – was passed for use by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2003, but the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency claims the studies submitted as evidence were seriously flawed, and the German government suspended registration of Clothianidin and similar chemicals in May of this year.

So – are bees being killed off by electrosmog or Clothianidin? Maybe it’s both, maybe it’s neither… but given the choice of the two, I know what Occam’s Razor is telling me, and it’s the answer that doesn’t make such a sensational headline.

Bumblebees teach police to catch serial killers

James R. Bumblebee: keeping our plants reproducingWhat do busy busy bumblebees and sinister serial killers have in common? They both stray far from their home when doing plying their trade, according to scientists from the University of London. When foraging for nectar, a bumblebee will create a ‘buffer zone’ around its nest that it won’t drink the flowers in, so that predators and parasites don’t follow it back to its home. The researchers found that this buffer zone was very similar to the pattern created by serial killers when they kill their victims. By studying the paths of bumblebees they hope to give forensic experts better clues as to where a killer might live based on his killings. We’d better make sure we keep the bees alive then.

[Story via bbc, picture by feileacan]

The bees are still dying – but Haagen Dazs wants to help

Save our little friends, save the world?For a number of years now biologists and farmers alike have been concerned about levels of honeybees around the world, with many hives collapsing due to what’s known as CCD – Colony Collapse Disorder. It leads people to find strangely abandoned hives with a few dead bees but most gone elsewhere. The causes are unknown – it could be a number of fungal or viral diseases, or interference from cell phone towers messing up their ability to find home. It could also be mites, global warming, GM crops, pretty much anything. As honeybees are used massively in pollinating commercial fruit and vegetables, this is a real concern not just for a species of insect, but also for us.

Happily a certain gourmet Ice Cream company is on the case. Haagen Dazs has already donated money to some of the researchers trying to find what’s going on with the bees. Now it’s also making a bee-themed honey Ice Cream, with profits going towards our stripy friends. Coincidentally, did you know Haagen Dazs is not actually Scandanavian? The name was created by its founders in America and both words are actually made up. The closest translation in any language is an Iranian phrase meaning ‘garbage can’.

[via Daily Galaxy, image by BugMan50]