The Case of the Disappearing Bees May Be Solved

Colonies of honeybees (an invasive exotic species) have been dying off in the last year. Some ideological environmentalists--the Sierra Club--attempted to blame biotech crops as the cause. However, as I pointed out, even the research the Sierra Club cited indicated that biotech crops were unlikely to be the cause for colony collapse disorder.

Today, Science is publishing a fascinating metagenomic study which strongly suggests that a new viral infection is killing off bees, specifically, Israeli acute paralysis virus. The researchers ground up bees and then screened all the DNA they found, including DNA from any disease organisms that might be infecting bees.  Nature reports:

As the team reports in today's Science, they found that genes of the Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV) matched extremely well with hives with the disorder. "If you identify IAPV in a colony, the probability is over 96% that this is going to come from a CCD hive," says lead author Ian Lipkin of Columbia University in New York. The virus was found in only a single sample that was not identified as having CCD.

The researchers stress that this doesn't prove that IAPV is causing CCD; it is possible that the virus is infecting bees while they are in a vulnerable state. But they have found a good suspect, the researchers say. "The real test will be introducing the virus to healthy bees," says Lipkin.

"I think that multiple factors are involved in CCD," adds co-author Jeffery Pettis of the USDA Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. The bees from collapsing colonies were generally in much worse shape than the healthy controls, he notes. The disorder could represent the cumulative effect of the virus, parasitic mites, and external stressors, including pesticides on crops and the bumpy rides the bees take on trucks between pollination gigs.

Whole Nature article here.  

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  • ||

    Hmm, I actually read something about the ubiquitous cell phone signals screwing up their innate sense of direction, preventing them from finding their way back to their hives. Was this debunked as well?

  • crap-action-jackson||

    What is this "CCD" you speak of.

    "You keep saying this word, but I do not think it means what you think."

  • ||

    CCD = "Colony Collapse Disorder"

  • ||

    sage:
    that was never a serious theory, just some crazy Vermont(?) recluse coming up with something new and technological (to her) to blame.

  • ||

    "Israeli acute paralysis virus"

    It's always the Jews, ain't it?

  • ||

    """CCD = "Colony Collapse Disorder"""

    Man, they have a disorder for everything these days.

  • ||

    Come on, Ron. CCD is cause by man made global warming. Just ask Al Gore.

  • ||

    CCD = "Colony Collapse Disorder"

    Now we know what happened at Roanoke.

  • Urkobold™||

    CROATOAN.

  • lunchstealer||

    I thought CCD was caused by an overwhelming sense of ennui.

  • ||

    All kidding aside, this is possibly good news. If we identify the cause of a problem we can work towards a solution. I stress possibly because the research still has a long way to go, e.g. peer review and reproduction of research. I'm a skeptic but this looks positive.

  • ||

    Why do people always try to blame cell phones for everything? A 15 education about how radio waves work would dispel about 90% of the fear of cell phones.

  • lunchstealer||

    But toxic, they communicate using radio-frequency radiation!!!

  • ||

    Why do people always try to blame cell phones for everything? A 15 education about how radio waves work would dispel about 90% of the fear of cell phones.



    Because so many of our fellow citizens have little to zero scientific knowledge. Amazingly (to me) they are content with that. Add to general ignorance the fact that what you don't understand you tend to fear.

  • Seitz||

    I had CCD all the way through eighth grade. I sympathize with those bees, man. CCD sucked. I don't even go to church anymore.

  • lunchstealer||

    Amazingly (to me) they are content with that.

    Science is for Melvins, man.

  • ||

    The death of those bees is a direct result of human existance! It might not be frankencrops, or sellphones, but they wouldn't all be dead if it weren't for those Israelis. Humans always fuck things up. We must surrender all our freedoms are face the wrath of Gaia! You damned libertarians would allow people to destroy the Planet!

  • ||

    It was obviously caused by the space aliens who make the crop circles.

    ;P

  • ||

    Judging from some of the folks I work with the bees could simply be up their asses.

  • Urkobold™||

    THE URKOBOLD DID GAIA DURING A DRUNKEN ORGY WITH ZEUS, CRONOS, GAIA, AND SOME CHICK NAMED HERA. NO MORE UPSIDE-DOWN AMBROSIA SHOTS FOR THE URKOBOLD, THAT'S FOR SURE.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    If a disease is causing it, I'm surprised that the birds aren't dying, too.

  • Reb Yudel||

    Blaming the Israelis seems awfully convenient. But the cell phone hypothesis certainly doesn't hold up -- hives in the West Virginia radio silence zone, where cell phones don't work out of deference to the Greenbank Radio Observatory, have also collapsed.

  • ||

    Hmm, so populations decline due to predation and disease in a natural cycle. Kind of like my 9th grade biology text said. If only the Sierra Club had some sort of program to teach people basic ecology.

  • ||

    If a disease is causing it, I'm surprised that the birds aren't dying, too.

    Brian,

    Pathogens tend to be species specific. When they do jump the species barrior, they tend to infect closely related species.

  • ||

    @sage

    Yea it was never taken seriously - I remember when a bee keeper was queried by a reporter about cell phones cause the problem his response was akin to "Cell phone? I don't have one since we can't get a signal out here"

  • ktc2||

    Urkobold does Karaoke!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOUYqXi9vNU&mode=related&search=

  • ||

    """"Pathogens tend to be species specific. When they do jump the species barrior, they tend to infect closely related species."""

    Like from bird to pig to man?

  • ||

    It was obviously caused by the space aliens who make the crop circles.

    I thought the bees left (saying "So long, and thanks for all the pollen") because the bees knew that the Vogons were going to destroy the earth to make room for an intergalactic space bypass.

  • ||

    If only the Sierra Club had some sort of program to teach people basic ecology.


    Stop it! I'm spewing Dr Pepper out my nose and scaring all my coworkers!

  • ||

    From the Nature article:

    The researchers stress that this doesn't prove that IAPV is causing CCD; it is possible that the virus is infecting bees while they are in a vulnerable state. But they have found a good suspect, the researchers say. "The real test will be introducing the virus to healthy bees," says Lipkin.

    It seems pretty likely that IAPV is causing CCD, though. It could be shown to be overwhelmingly likely if bees with CCD in geographically widely disparate sites test positive for IAPV.

  • ||

    They discussed this issue on the "Skeptics Guide To The Universe" podcast and they discussed the possible causes. GM crops were brought as one loopier theories, but they decided that the most likely culprit was some sort of disease.

  • ||

    "They discussed this issue on the 'Skeptics Guide To The Universe'... but they decided that the most likely culprit was some sort of disease."

    Great Podcast. Those guys are always on top of things... if you want to become smarter, try to be like Steve.

    Anyway, it seems that we're on the way to solving this bee problem... good thing, since I love fruits and nuts.

  • ||

    Clearly this must be a conservative virus.

  • ||

    I like fruits and nuts too, Andy D! FRUITS AND NUTS ... Baba Booey!

  • ||

    Fruits and nuts is slang for liberals/libertarians ...

  • ||

    Like from bird to pig to man?

    Trickyvic,

    Exactly. Those three species are all terrestrial vertebrates. The bird and bee lineages separated so long ago that you can distinguish a bird from a bee at the 64 cell stage.

  • ||

    Speaking of slang ... this is tits!
    http://okfuture.net/2007/09/03/vintage-tex-avery-cartoon-slang/

  • ||

    Seamus

    So long! And thanks for all the pollen!

  • ||

    THE URKOBOLD DID GAIA DURING A DRUNKEN ORGY WITH ZEUS, CRONOS, GAIA, AND SOME CHICK NAMED HERA. NO MORE UPSIDE-DOWN AMBROSIA SHOTS FOR THE URKOBOLD, THAT'S FOR SURE.



    Man, I was there too.

    If you think you got fucked up, just think how it was for a mere mortal like me.

  • ||

    Anyone with common sense knows good and well what's causing the bee shortage; it's all those Mexicans coming over the border...

  • ||

    "The Case of the Disappearing Bees May Be Solved"

    Sweet! Now if we could just figure out the cause of the disappearing Bee Gees, we'd be set.

  • dr_dog||

    Judging from the comments on the newspaper website I read, the envirobots have now chalked CCD up to globalization.

  • ||

    ... hives in the West Virginia radio silence zone, where cell phones don't work out of deference to the Greenbank Radio Observatory ...

    Sheesh, some people will believe anything the government tells them. Radio waves could reactivate the alien power crystals and awaken Mark Twain's zombie for another rampage.

  • ||

    dr_dog said:


    Judging from the comments on the newspaper website I read, the envirobots have now chalked CCD up to globalization.



    Nonsense. Joe has been quite clear about this. Bees eat corn. Bionic corn. Do the math.

  • ||

    I thought the bees left (saying "So long, and thanks for all the pollen") because the bees knew that the Vogons were going to destroy the earth to make room for an intergalactic space bypass.

    That suddenly made me think of Genghis Khan. ...Why?

  • Greg||

    So the Israeli acute paralysis virus is killing the bees?

    Does this mean the green left has a new thing to blame on the New York Money People?


    Yeah, I know. Bad joke. It's Friday, and I like bad jokes.

  • ||

    The bees never disappeared

    They were being used for exports to Europe for Germans and French to place in their bonnets about George W Bush

  • ||

    It's not the Israelis. It's the Australians.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12605-virus-blamed-for-mysterious-disappearance-of-us-bees.html

    Them Australians. They REALLY pull the strings. ;)

  • ||

    From that article:

    "Experts say they have 'circumstantial evidence' linking the arrival of honeybee imports from Australia with the emergence of IAPV in the States. First identified in Israel in 2004, IAPV causes bees to develop shivering wings and eventually become paralysed, leading to death just outside the hive."

  • ||

    Them Australians. They REALLY pull the strings. ;)

    The Gnomes of Canberra control all.

  • ||

    You know, I think Stevo's onto something:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6f/Garden_gnomes_-_commonwealth_park_canberra.jpg/800px-Garden_gnomes_-_commonwealth_park_canberra.jpg

    There seem to be alotta them.

  • ||

    This is a bit ironic given the somewhat over-the-top security rituals the Aussies go to to stop insects entering the country.

  • ||

    "Aussies sting September 07, 2007 12:00am

    SCIENTISTS are eyeing Australia as the potential source of a virus that is suspected of killing billions of honeybees in the United States.

    They have identified Israeli acute paralysis virus as the latest potential culprit in a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, which has struck between 50 and 90 per cent of commercial honeybee hives in the US.

    The earliest reports of the disorder date to 2004. That year, US beekeepers began importing bees from Australia, a practice that had been banned in 1922.

    US officials are discussing reinstating the ban."

    http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22376207-662,00.html

    That's why I'm against immigration. Of bees.

    NO FOREIGN BEES ALLOWED!

    We should build a fence! ;)

  • ||

    A 15 education about how radio waves work would dispel about 90% of the fear of cell phones.

    As far as bees go, speak for yourself, not for the physicists at Landau university who advanced the cell phone theory, which was actually quite rational and based on accepted science.

    that was never a serious theory, just some crazy Vermont(?) recluse coming up with something new and technological (to her) to blame.
    Please insert 25 cents to play again. Bonehead.

  • ||

    Sweet! Now if we could just figure out the cause of the disappearing Bee Gees, we'd be set.

    An outbreak of musical taste,perhaps?

  • ||

    It's not the Israelis. It's the Australians.

    You deluded fool. Just like the JOOZ blamed 9/11 on arab militants, now they're trying to blame CCD on the Aussies. Read "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and you'll understand.

  • ||

    The Protocols were written by BEES?

    Now I do know what's at the center of all our world problems.

    BEES!

  • ||

    As far as bees go, speak for yourself, not for the physicists at Landau university who advanced the cell phone theory, which was actually quite rational and based on accepted science.

    Physicists investigating insect deaths, Hmmm.. I'd give them more credence if they were epidemiologists or entomologists.

    BTW, I'm a skeptic, not a cynic.

  • Ed||

    OK, who's going to vaccinate the bees?

  • georgfelis||

    They're gonna need a whole bunch of teeny tiny needles, that's for sure. And teeny tiny band-aids if they want PETA to leave them alone.

  • MadMan||

    I don't know if this means anything but someone sent me a beautiful crystal bowl engraved with: "So long, and thanks for all the flowers"

  • ||

    Madman

    I don't know if this means anything but someone sent me a beautiful crystal bowl engraved with: "So long, and thanks for all the flowers"

    If you have a friend called "Ford Prefect", you should worry.

  • ||

    If you have a friend called "Ford Prefect", you should worry.

    Hell no. *He'd* survive the destruction of Earth. It's the *rest* of us who should worry. *g*

  • ||

    It's the *rest* of us who should worry. *g*

    I don't know why. I have this book telling me, "Don't panic."

  • ||

    Saying the bee die-off is caused by this virus is like saying that the death of someone with HIV was caused by Karposi's Sarcoma or pneumonia.

    Something changed to allow this disease to take hold and attack the population, when it didn't before.

  • ||

    That, er... "something" being the introduction of infected foreign bee populations into the US?

    Or is it something more sinister? Oh, know, all of the cell phone traffic generated by the failure of the US government to ratify Kyoto has allowed evil bee keepers to call Australia! The bees are doomed!

  • ||

    "Anyway, it seems that we're on the way to solving this bee problem... good thing, since I love fruits and nuts."

    Andy - we love you too!

  • Rich||

    Pathogens tend to be species specific. When they do jump the species barrior, they tend to infect closely related species.

  • ||

    Well don't worry everybody! Just bee happy!

    Bees for Sale

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