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What’s Bugging The Bees (Experts Have Some Clues)

Posted By G Monkie On March 27, 2008 @ 3:47 pm In Nature / Non Human Stories | No Comments

G Living has been covering the very important story about the Worlds Bee populations dying at a very alarming rate. Entire colonies just die off, leaving bee keeps to come back to empty hives. A German theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world – the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. But now a new story in the L.A. Times says the more likely answer is a fungus.

(summary of l.a.times.com article) A fungus that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bees across the United States, UC San Francisco researchers said Wednesday. But the results are "highly preliminary" and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said.

Other researchers said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in affected hives from around the country — as well as in some hives where bees had survived. Weather, pesticide exposures and infestations by pests, such as the Varroa mite, have wiped out significant numbers of colonies in the past, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s.

About a quarter of the estimated 2.4 million commercial colonies across the United States have been lost since fall, said Jerry Hayes of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Gainesville. Besides producing honey, commercial beehives are used to pollinate a third of the country’s agricultural crops, including apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries, strawberries and pumpkins.

DeRisi and UCSF’s Don Ganem, who normally look for the causes of human diseases, were brought into the bee search by virologist Evan W. Dr. Charles Wick of the center had used a new system of genetic analysis to identify pathogens in ground-up bee samples from California.

Skowronski forwarded the samples to DeRisi, who also found evidence of the viruses, along with genetic material from N. ceranae.

"There was a lot of stuff from Nosema, about 25% of the total," Skowronski said. "That meant there was more than there was bee RNA. That leads me to believe that the bee died from that particular pathogen." If N. ceranae does play a role in Colony Collapse Disorder, there may be some hope for beekeepers.

If N. ceranae does play a role in Colony Collapse Disorder, there may be some hope for beekeepers.

A closely related parasite called Nosema apis, which also affects bees, can be controlled by the antibiotic fumagillin, and there is some evidence that it will work on N.

Read the full story at: latimes.com


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