Monday, September 10, 2007

Update on Colony Collapse Disorder

This past summer most of you probably heard about the loss of American bees due to the mysterious colony collapse disorder. Last week Science published research indicating that the collapse may be caused by a virus imported from the Middle East. NPR summed up the research in a nice story. Researchers found a definite correlation between the virus and the decline in the U.S. bee population, but did not establish a causal link. They suggested that other factors (mites and fungi) might tip the scales in favor of collapse in infected hives. (My insecticide theory does not seem to be floating to the top of preferred causes.)

Researchers report that beekeepers can save their hives by irradiating the virus. American farmers and beekeepers will no doubt be excited by this news, but prognosis for crop pollination next year is still a little uncertain due to the large loss of bees (up to 90% in some areas).

2 Comments:

Anonymous Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

This is good news. I'm rather surprised how little attention has been given to "colony collapse disorder," in light of how important bees are to crop pollination. Many years ago I worked for a beekeeper and he was among the first to be concerned about the Africanized honey bees that had yet to cross the border into North America. His beliefs proved prescient, although it doesn't seem they've caused the degree of devastation that was predicted in some quarters. It was then I learned firsthand the agroeconomic significance of bees, in other words, that their importance was not confined to their contribution to my staple peanut butter & honey sandwiches.

How accessible or expensive is the equipment used in irradiation? Is it something affordable to comparatively small beekeepers?

Incidentally, this beekeeper, John Evarts, gave up his business in anticipation of the Africanized bees and has since edited exquisite books on the Oaks of California and the Coast Redwood published by Cachuma Press ('publishers of natural history, travel, and garden books for California'), which he co-founded with his wife, Marjorie Popper.

9/10/2007 4:38 PM  
Blogger Samantha Bohrman said...

That is a good point. I'm not sure how much irradiation costs. I did a quick google search and did not come up with anything. I will update the blog if I find out. No matter what the cost, I'm sure it will fall harder on small beekeepers than large.

Thanks too for the book suggestions!

9/14/2007 4:35 PM  

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