More about Colony Collapse Disorder

US insect researchers debate CCD.

Disappearing winter cluster

At a recent meeting of The Entomological Society of America in Southern California, nearly 3000 scientists met to discuss all manner of insect research. Of particular interest to beekeepers was the half-day emergency symposium held on Colony Collapse Disorder. There were nearly a dozen speakers on the subject.

Will it still be possible to keep bees?

Marla Spivak took the depressing view that it shouldn’t be possible to keep bees at all. There are just too many things going wrong; – the serious effect of varroa on honey bee health, increasingly common problems with poor quality pollen and the widespread use of pesticides all add to the problems without taking the generally difficult economics of beekeeping into account. The list of problems described for American beekeepers are legion, many relating to the intensive nature of agriculture in the US; reduced forage, poor honeybee nutrition, widespread pesticide use, poor returns for honey meaning pollination contracts are more proportionality more valuable, increased acreage of pollination-needing crops so lots of economic pressure to move large numbers of honeybee colonies about, problems with varroa mite control and varroacide contaminated wax comb. Add in at least 2 strains of Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus and you get ? ….. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD.)

New techniques

A number of new techniques to study CCD emerged at this meeting including an Integrated Virus Detection machine that shows the presence of virus particles in less that a half hour. Viruses show up as peaks on a chart. Known viruses have known peaks while newly discovered viruses can be identified later…but you will know they are there. . Another finding was that there are at least two strains of Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) in the U.S., and that neither is similar to the original described in Israel. However, both strains appear to be linked to imports of bees from Australia. Earlier research indicated there was probably a close association between IAPV and CCD.

The influence of genes

It was noted that certain genes were expressed very differently in bees that were healthy, bees that were failing, and bees that had the symptoms of CCD. The study of the honeybee genome showed they have fewer genes for fighting off diseases than other insects. However, scientists are also finding that propolis has considerable capacity to fight off diseases…for both honey bee and humans.

This CCD update item has been adapted from Bee Culture’s e-zine Catch the Buzz.

The latest research details can be found on the Mid Atlantic Apicultural and Extension Consortium (MAAREC) website www.maarec.cas.psu.edu/Colony CollapseDisorder.html

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