Wednesday, April 25, 2007

forget the frogs and canaries

Apparently bees are disappearing all over the world. (New York Times, may require registration.)
More than a quarter of the country’s 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost — tens of billions of bees, according to an estimate from the Apiary Inspectors of America, a national group that tracks beekeeping. So far, no one can say what is causing the bees to become disoriented and fail to return to their hives.

...About 60 researchers from North America sifted the possibilities at the meeting today. Some expressed concern about the speed at which adult bees are disappearing from their hives; some colonies have collapsed in as little as two days. Others noted that countries in Europe, as well as Guatemala and parts of Brazil, are also struggling for answers.

The researchers have collected samples in several states and have begun doing bee autopsies and genetic analysis. ...So far, known enemies of the bee world, like the varroa mite, on their own at least, do not appear to be responsible for the unusually high losses.

Genetic testing at Columbia University has revealed the presence of multiple micro-organisms in bees from hives or colonies that are in decline, suggesting that something is weakening their immune system. The researchers have found some fungi in the affected bees that are found in humans whose immune systems have been suppressed by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or cancer.

Meanwhile, samples were sent to an Agriculture Department laboratory in North Carolina this month to screen for 117 chemicals. Particular suspicion falls on a pesticide that France banned out of concern that it may have been decimating bee colonies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This situation could play hob with apple growers everywhere and the almond growers in Kallee-forn-yah for a few years, but I reckon the little blighters will bounce back, as they have from earlier die outs.

This puts me in mind of other blights and plagues that have troubled humanity down through the ages. I personally helped remove trees afflicted with Dutch elm disease in the early '70's. I can't say that I've seen an elm tree to know it since. The blight that laid low the mighty chestnut tree, beneath which the village smithy stood, occurred in the 1900's. The other day Louise bought a jar of chestnut butter; the lable read, "Product of France." Those dudes are making a slow comeback.

The disease that devastated the Irish potato crop in the 1840's starved a million people. You've noticed that there are still potatoes available. The Black Death wiped out as much as half the population of Europe in the fourteenth century. There are still Europeans.

So it'll be tight belts for some folks for the next few years, but the various causes of colony collapse will be pinpointed,and measures taken to combat them.

It's thought by some researchers that nicotine based pesticides are to blame. So them bees better quit smokin' them cheap seegars!!!

It was found that the afflicted bees had a fungus also found in humans. I wonder if some of my students have caught the contagion; the can't seem to find my classroom.