Bee die-off perplexes scientists

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Postby chiggerbit » Tue Feb 13, 2007 10:29 pm

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Postby ninakat » Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:16 pm

A new article today from with a map of the affected states: ... y-illness-

Mystery illness devastates honeybee colonies
12:31 14 February 2007 news service
Roxanne Khamsi

A mysterious illness is devastating honeybee populations across the US from California to Florida, claiming up to 80% of colonies in some areas. The losses of honeybees could disrupt the pollination of food crops, researchers warn.

Beekeepers are finding once-healthy colonies abandoned just a few days later, says Jerry Bromenshank, at the University of Montana at Missoula and Bee Alert Technology, a company monitoring the problem: “In most cases the only one left is the queen, along with a few young bees.”

The absence of dead bees makes it difficult to know what ails them and where they have gone. Furthermore, experts cannot track the spread of the mysterious illness. “The problem is that it strikes out of the blue,” says Bromenshank.

At a loss for an explanation, researchers have referred to the honeybee decline as “colony collapse disorder”. Reports of the problem have intensified in recent weeks and spanned 22 states, but some beekeepers say that they began seeing their colonies decline almost two years ago.

Almonds and apples

Researchers say colony collapse disorder might be a re-emergence of a similarly mysterious illness that struck US honeybees in the 1960s. Experts never pinpointed the cause behind that previous bee crisis, according to Bromenshank. He notes that in light of this some people have jokingly termed the problem the “disappearing-disappearing illness”.

But beekeepers and farmers see no humour in the potential economic costs of drastic honeybee decline. Almond crops are immediately vulnerable because they rely on honeybee pollination at this time of year. And the insect decline could potentially affect other crops later in the year, such as apples and blueberries.

Bromenshank speculates that dry conditions in the autumn reduced the natural food supply of the honeybees, making them more vulnerable to some sort of virus – such as deformed wing virus – or fungal infection. He notes that the abandoned colonies are not repopulated by other honeybees or insects for at least a few weeks. This, he says, is consistent with the presence of toxic fungal residues from the dying bees that repel other insects from re-inhabiting the colony.

Other scientists have tentatively blamed the problem on pesticides or chemicals specifically designed to control mites in bee colonies.

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“colony collapse disorder”

Postby marmot » Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:27 pm

This is more serious than I imagined!

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Postby chiggerbit » Thu Feb 15, 2007 12:09 am

Ok, this is really weird--all the Midwestern states where so many crop chemicals and GM seed are used, are still not affected. Too weird.
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Postby wintler2 » Thu Feb 15, 2007 5:52 am

True, chiggerbit, much as i'd like biocides to be the bogeyman. Any reports in Canada or Mexico? Heard nothing here Down Under.
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Postby PeterofLoneTree » Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:51 pm

I offer the following, lest we not consider ALL possibilities:
Putin Orders Russian ‘Queens’ Home, Decimates US Bee Industry

By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers

In reviewing reports from our Kremlin sources today I could not help but call to mind the words of the great German scientist Albert Einstein, and who when asked what kind of weapons World War III would be fought with, Einstein responded, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

These thoughts of mine were due to the information contained in these reports relating to the decimation of the domestic bee industry in the United States, and as we can read about as reported by the Mongabay.Com News Service in their article titled "Mysterious outbreak killing millions of bees", and which says:

"An mysterious outbreak is causing the deaths of millions of honeybees in 22 states according to an entomologist from the University of Montana.

Jerry Bromenshenk says that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is "causing agricultural honeybees nationwide to abandon their hives and disappear."

“Individual beekeepers are really taking a beating,” Bromenshenk said. “A guy down in Oklahoma lost 80 percent of his 13,000 colonies in the last month. In Florida, there are a whole lot of people facing 40, 60 and 80 percent losses. That’s huge.”

"With CCD, most adult honeybees abandon a hive and disappear, leaving the queen and a remnant of younger bees. The malady also is characterized by uncapped brood -- when the cells of young bees in the pupa stage are not covered and protected by their older sisters -- probably because most of the adult bees have left. Dead adult bees aren't found near the hive; they are just gone," explains a news release from the University of Montana."

Now, it is very important to understand that these bees are not dead, or dying, they are simply ‘disappearing’, and which led me to remember my studies under Russian biophysicist and molecular biologist Pjotr Garjajev in the 1980’s, and where a great deal of Soviet effort was then being put into the saving of the American domestic bee industry due to devastating losses caused by varroa mites.

To the success of the Soviets efforts we can read as reported by the Science News, Vol. 154, No. 6, August 8, 1998, and which said:

"Federal scientists hope to establish a Russian dynasty throughout the United States—one populated by the progeny of Asian-hatched honeybees, renowned for their resistance to mites.

That goal moved a step closer last week. The first generation of bees produced by 90 expatriate queens, just released from quarantine, has significantly outperformed U.S. members of their species, Apis mellifera, in resisting infestation by varroa mites.

This parasite, which first turned up among U.S. honeybees 11 years ago, has taken a devastating toll. Feeding off their hosts' blood, the energy-sapping mites weaken and soon kill the bees (SN: 2/8/97, p. 92). Moreover, mites in four states have developed resistance to the one pesticide approved for use against them, notes Thomas E. Rinderer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture honeybee laboratory in Baton Rouge, La.

Such pesticide-resistance leaves beekeepers defenseless, he says. Indeed, he notes, because wild honeybees never received treatment, "they're gone." Though swarms that stray from beekeepers' colonies may survive a few months in the wild, he says, these days "they're doomed, too."

The parasites develop on bee pupae. Once a bee emerges as an adult, it normally lives 30 days or more, depending upon how hard it works. But an infested worker may survive only 3 to 5 days in its sickly state. The mites, which also attack adults, reproduce on a 10-day cycle, allowing them to quickly kill off a colony.

In the new tests, Rinderer's team exposed 90 parasitefree colonies to mites. Each colony contained a Russian-hatched queen and up to 60,000 of her offspring. About 12 weeks later, the USDA scientists tallied how many mites infested the adults and pupae.

From previous data on U.S. colonies, "we would have expected an 11.4-fold increase in mites during the test period," Rinderer says. Instead "we got an average 3.9-fold increase—and many colonies had no increase. This is extremely exciting."

Though many honeybee populations along the Primorski region of Russia's Pacific coast have had a century to develop natural resistance to the varroa mite, bees who arrived there more recently show little ability to coexist with the parasite. The current tests were designed to identify and eliminate these weaker bees from any U.S. breeding program.

Imported a year ago, the queens, which can live up to 3 years, are becoming quite elderly. Colonies headed by their daughters, however, are now beginning a new wave of tests to compare them directly with U.S. hives. The queens, which mate only once, carry sperm from descendants of Primorski-hatched bees. By next spring, Rinderer's team plans to begin distributing mated Russian queens to beekeepers for experiments to evaluate how well they pollinate plants and produce honey under field conditions.

The Russian queens are fueling considerable excitement among apiarists, says Troy Fore of the American Beekeeping Federation in Jesup, Ga. The cost of treating colonies with the varroa miticide can eat up 20 percent of a beekeeper's gross earnings—or about 80 percent of the intended profit, he says. Bees with Russian genes should reduce the need for some or all of these expensive treatments, he adds."

The Russian queens also "offer to throw the [mite] resistance gene into [stray] bees," reestablishing a self-sustaining feral community, notes beekeeper Kim Flottum, who edits Bee Culture in Medina, Ohio.

Unknown to the Americans, however, relating to the saving of their domestic bee industry by the massive introduction of Russian Queen Bees was the Soviet research on bees that built upon the research being carried out by Würzburg Zoologists, and which resulted in their groundbreaking study titled "Bursts of magnetic fields induce jumps of misdirection in bees by a mechanism of magnetic resonance"

Now, without making this a pure science report, and which is not our intention as we only seek to provide general information that can lead to your further research, these scientists discovered that “bursts at a frequency of 250 Hz oriented parallel to the field-lines of the EMF induce unequivocal jumps of misdirection of up to +10°” in colonies of Russian bees, and which is highly significant should ‘someone’ wish to destroy bee colonies by causing their workers to ‘disappear’ and not be able to find their way back to heir hives.

(It is important to note that domestic bees that have lost their domestic hives are able to produce a new feral queen and continue to survive in the wild.)

The greater significance of these events, though, rests with the 250 Hz range (The hertz (symbol: Hz) is the SI unit of frequency. Its base unit is s-1 (also called inverse seconds, or 1/s). In English, hertz is used as both singular and plural. One hertz simply means one per second.), and which not only will cause Russian domesticated bees to lose their ability to re-find their domestic hives, but is the frequency attributed to causing great anger in human beings.

It has long been known that both the United States and the Soviets have conducted decades long research into the use of mind control technologies, with the greater aim being towards the control of their own citizens, but also towards its uses in warfare, and which these events appear to be coming into line with past predictions of the unintended consequences should these esoteric be unleashed.

What is occurring in the United States today relating to hundreds of millions of their domestic bees disappearing, and who are descendents of their original Russian Queen ancestors, is that their Military Leadership has unleashed upon their citizens through their propaganda media organs (television/radio) the ‘fearful’ 250 Hz signal intended to ‘anger’ their population in the buildup towards war with Iran.

But! One of the unintended consequences produced by their provocative actions against their own citizens is that they have likewise ‘signaled’ the demise of their agricultural industry through the decimation of their domestic bee industry.

Is it indeed possible that the Soviets in the 1980’s were foresighted enough to plant this ticking time bomb in the very heart of America should the United States at some future date become intent upon Global domination?

A simple phone call to our Kremlin sources provided this cryptic answer, “The ‘Honey Plot’ does exist, Putin himself gave the order.”
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Postby ninakat » Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:56 am

PeterofLoneTree, thanks for the posting from Sorcha Faal. What a conspiracy theory. I guess I think it IS plausible, but I'm not really convinced since the idea of the 250Hz signal being used in radio and tv in the U.S. doesn't make sense -- is the signal supposedly buried in all the audio, in order to have a subliminal effect? I don't know. Seems like the powers that be have enough overt propaganda going to keep the lies flowing to the gullible. Besides, why should 250Hz make people angry specifically about Iran? Or, is it that people will just be angry period, and then aim their anger at what the propagandists are telling us?

I guess I'm not buying this story, not without further clarification and evidence. Interesting though.
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Postby rocco33 » Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:39 am

I also have to wonder if the die-off of all the frogs, snakes, lizards, and birds are related to this. It is absolutely criminal that this isn't all over the news channels. Instead you get a week of Anna Nicole Smith and her Illuminati new-born.
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Postby chiggerbit » Fri Feb 16, 2007 11:52 am

How many of you have heard of the war between Missouri and the soon-to-be-state if Iowa? It's a local piece of history which shows that at least people in this area know what to go to war over.

See link for entire article

"...Settlers imported the first honeybees in 1638. Once bees escaped to the forests, they quickly adapted and spread, and by 1820 when Missouri became a state, the wild bee tree was a prize for a settler with a sweet tooth. It also was the reason for the weirdest near-war in the state's history, the abortive Honey War of 1839.

The Honey War today is remembered only by a few historians. It didn't last long and it didn't amount to much, but as wars go it was the best of all possible worlds. It provided entertainment for everyone and no one got hurt.

There's a metal marker on the northeast Missouri farm of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Longnecker. It's about three feet high. Time and the Des Moines River silt are burying it. Mrs. Longnecker's late father, Albert Evans, who rented the farm around World War One, remembered the post as being his height.

Perhaps in another century, the rich dirt will bury the last monument to the silliest war in American history, the Honey War. In 1839, Missouri and Iowa mobilized their ragtag militias, ready to start shooting over who owned a wild river bottom full of bee trees.

The dispute got its name when a Missourian, whose name apparently has been lost by historians, cut three bee trees in an area claimed both by Missouri and Iowa. The trees were valuable both for the honey, which sold for up to $.37 a gallon, and for beeswax, which was used in various ways (the finest candles were of beeswax).

Iowa tried the bee tree thief in absentia and fined him $1.50.

That inflamed Missourians, who have never been reluctant to bash heads over real or imagined wrongs. Missouri had been a state since 1821. Iowa Territory was about to become one, so the legal boundary between the two was an immediate issue.

In 1837, Joseph Brown, a Missouri surveyor, set a boundary line which no one paid much attention to. In 1838, Maj. Albert Lea, a federal surveyor, laid out four possible boundary lines, all representing different interpretations of historical data.

The contested area between Lea's southernmost possibility and the northernmost was about 2,600 square miles, ranging from nine to 11 miles wide from the Des Moines River west to the Missouri River.

Missouri Gov. Lilburn Boggs, a contentious type, proclaimed in August 1839, that Brown's 1837 boundary, the northernmost line, was the state line. Perhaps Boggs was ticked off because the tree cutting Missourian had been fined by Iowa in what Boggs considered Missouri.

Almost immediately, Iowa Gov. Robert Lucas authorized the arrest of anyone trying to exercise authority in what he called "the seat of excitement."

Enter Uriah (Sandy) Gregory, Clark County sheriff from Missouri. He was ordered north into the contested territory to collect taxes on, among other things, bee trees.

Most of the residents in the "seat of excitement" were Iowans by nature and they ordered Sheriff Gregory to go home. He was outnumbered about 1,200 to one, so he prudently went back south of all the possible boundaries.

Plaintively, if ungrammatically, he wrote Gov. Boggs, "I am at a loss what to do the Citizens of that territory two-thirds of which is hostile to the officer and declare if I pretend to use any authority which I am invested by the State of Missouri, they will take me by fourse and put me in confinement."

Gov. Boggs ordered Gregory to go get those taxes. The Iowans weren't kidding. They took the beleaguered sheriff by "fourse" and confined him in Burlington. He later said they treated him pretty well and let him roam around town, but wouldn't let him go home. He apparently enjoyed his enforced vacation and seemed relieved to have his problems solved for him.

It now was December, snowy and bitterly cold. Both sides began to arm for battle. The alarmed Gov. Lucas prophesied, wrongly as it turned out, that the dispute "might ultimately lead to the effusion of blood." He called up 1,200 men who cried, "Death to the Pukes," and drank plenty of whiskey. They were a bit officer heavy. They had four generals, nine general staff officers, 40 field officers and 83 company officers.

The Missourians tried to raise 2,200 militiamen, but less than half showed up. However, they were armed with the latest technology: one carried a sausage stuffer. The mind reels a bit at the thought of the probable effects of an attack with a sausage stuffer.

Meanwhile, Clark County officials, exhibiting rare common sense, sent a delegation to Iowa to work out a truce. The two sides came up with a classic political solution: they dumped the problem in the lap of the federal government and both sides told their soldiers to go home.

The Lewis County, Missouri, militia had spent two nights bivouacked in the cold and snow without tents or enough blankets. They did, however, have plenty of whiskey. One company brought six wagons of provisions and five of them were reputed to be filled with booze.

Even so, they weren't the happiest of campers. They wanted to shoot something. So they split a haunch of venison, labeled one half "Gov. Boggs," the other "Gov. Lucas," shot them full of holes and held a mock funeral.

Then both sides made a rowdy retreat and the Honey War was over. Ultimately, the two states compromised on a state line close to the middle of the four possible boundaries, and in 1850 set markers every 10 miles.

Some have vanished (one showed up in the back yard of a fraternity at Northwest Missouri State College at Maryville), but many still exist. However, the one on the Longnecker farm is the only one to mark the 'seat of excitement.'"
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Honey War

Postby marmot » Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:14 pm

chiggerbit, thanks for the fascinating Honey War article!
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Postby HiFi_Zither » Tue Mar 27, 2007 3:47 pm

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Postby ninakat » Tue Mar 27, 2007 5:19 pm

The bee die-off is a problem in Germany too, and presumably in other areas of the world.

Are GM Crops Killing Bees?

By Gunther Latsch

A mysterious decimation of bee populations has German beekeepers worried, while a similar phenomenon in the United States is gradually assuming catastrophic proportions. The consequences for agriculture and the economy could be enormous.

Walter Haefeker is a man who is used to painting grim scenarios. He sits on the board of directors of the German Beekeepers Association (DBIB) and is vice president of the European Professional Beekeepers Association. And because griping is part of a lobbyist's trade, it is practically his professional duty to warn that "the very existence of beekeeping is at stake."

The problem, says Haefeker, has a number of causes, one being the varroa mite, introduced from Asia, and another is the widespread practice in agriculture of spraying wildflowers with herbicides and practicing monoculture. Another possible cause, according to Haefeker, is the controversial and growing use of genetic engineering in agriculture.

As far back as 2005, Haefeker ended an article he contributed to the journal Der Kritischer Agrarbericht (Critical Agricultural Report) with an Albert Einstein quote: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

Mysterious events in recent months have suddenly made Einstein's apocalyptic vision seem all the more topical. For unknown reasons, bee populations throughout Germany are disappearing -- something that is so far only harming beekeepers. But the situation is different in the United States, where bees are dying in such dramatic numbers that the economic consequences could soon be dire. No one knows what is causing the bees to perish, but some experts believe that the large-scale use of genetically modified plants in the US could be a factor.

Felix Kriechbaum, an official with a regional beekeepers' association in Bavaria, recently reported a decline of almost 12 percent in local bee populations. When "bee populations disappear without a trace," says Kriechbaum, it is difficult to investigate the causes, because "most bees don't die in the beehive." There are many diseases that can cause bees to lose their sense of orientation so they can no longer find their way back to their hives.

Manfred Hederer, the president of the German Beekeepers Association, almost simultaneously reported a 25 percent drop in bee populations throughout Germany. In isolated cases, says Hederer, declines of up to 80 percent have been reported. He speculates that "a particular toxin, some agent with which we are not familiar," is killing the bees.

Politicians, until now, have shown little concern for such warnings or the woes of beekeepers. Although apiarists have been given a chance to make their case -- for example in the run-up to the German cabinet's approval of a genetic engineering policy document by Minister of Agriculture Horst Seehofer in February -- their complaints are still largely ignored.

Even when beekeepers actually go to court, as they recently did in a joint effort with the German chapter of the organic farming organization Demeter International and other groups to oppose the use of genetically modified corn plants, they can only dream of the sort of media attention environmental organizations like Greenpeace attract with their protests at test sites.

But that could soon change. Since last November, the US has seen a decline in bee populations so dramatic that it eclipses all previous incidences of mass mortality. Beekeepers on the east coast of the United States complain that they have lost more than 70 percent of their stock since late last year, while the west coast has seen a decline of up to 60 percent.

In an article in its business section in late February, the New York Times calculated the damage US agriculture would suffer if bees died out. Experts at Cornell University in upstate New York have estimated the value bees generate -- by pollinating fruit and vegetable plants, almond trees and animal feed like clover -- at more than $14 billion.

Scientists call the mysterious phenomenon "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD), and it is fast turning into a national catastrophe of sorts. A number of universities and government agencies have formed a "CCD Working Group" to search for the causes of the calamity, but have so far come up empty-handed. But, like Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, they are already referring to the problem as a potential "AIDS for the bee industry."

One thing is certain: Millions of bees have simply vanished. In most cases, all that's left in the hives are the doomed offspring. But dead bees are nowhere to be found -- neither in nor anywhere close to the hives. Diana Cox-Foster, a member of the CCD Working Group, told The Independent that researchers were "extremely alarmed," adding that the crisis "has the potential to devastate the US beekeeping industry."

It is particularly worrisome, she said, that the bees' death is accompanied by a set of symptoms "which does not seem to match anything in the literature."

In many cases, scientists have found evidence of almost all known bee viruses in the few surviving bees found in the hives after most have disappeared. Some had five or six infections at the same time and were infested with fungi -- a sign, experts say, that the insects' immune system may have collapsed.

The scientists are also surprised that bees and other insects usually leave the abandoned hives untouched. Nearby bee populations or parasites would normally raid the honey and pollen stores of colonies that have died for other reasons, such as excessive winter cold. "This suggests that there is something toxic in the colony itself which is repelling them," says Cox-Foster.

Walter Haefeker, the German beekeeping official, speculates that "besides a number of other factors," the fact that genetically modified, insect-resistant plants are now used in 40 percent of cornfields in the United States could be playing a role. The figure is much lower in Germany -- only 0.06 percent -- and most of that occurs in the eastern states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg. Haefeker recently sent a researcher at the CCD Working Group some data from a bee study that he has long felt shows a possible connection between genetic engineering and diseases in bees.

The study in question is a small research project conducted at the University of Jena from 2001 to 2004. The researchers examined the effects of pollen from a genetically modified maize variant called "Bt corn" on bees. A gene from a soil bacterium had been inserted into the corn that enabled the plant to produce an agent that is toxic to insect pests. The study concluded that there was no evidence of a "toxic effect of Bt corn on healthy honeybee populations." But when, by sheer chance, the bees used in the experiments were infested with a parasite, something eerie happened. According to the Jena study, a "significantly stronger decline in the number of bees" occurred among the insects that had been fed a highly concentrated Bt poison feed.

According to Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a professor at the University of Halle in eastern Germany and the director of the study, the bacterial toxin in the genetically modified corn may have "altered the surface of the bee's intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees to allow the parasites to gain entry -- or perhaps it was the other way around. We don't know."

Of course, the concentration of the toxin was ten times higher in the experiments than in normal Bt corn pollen. In addition, the bee feed was administered over a relatively lengthy six-week period.

Kaatz would have preferred to continue studying the phenomenon but lacked the necessary funding. "Those who have the money are not interested in this sort of research," says the professor, "and those who are interested don't have the money."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
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Postby Jeff » Fri Mar 30, 2007 2:02 am

Unexplainable bee trend may effect consumer food supply

By Matthew Spolar email
Collegian Staff Writer March 30

A Penn State professor testified before Congress yesterday about the increasing severity of an enormous honeybee die-off that could lead to less fresh fruit for local consumers.

In an unexplainable trend, large commercial migratory beekeepers have reported losses of 50 to 90 percent of their colonies, and non-migratory beekeepers have reported losses as well, according to the Web site for the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium,

Since pollination by the bees is needed to create fruits and vegetables, a lack of bees -- in a worst-case scenario -- could mean empty space on grocery store shelves, entomology Senior Extension Associate Maryann T. Frazier said.

In November, the first example of what experts are now calling "Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)" was reported by a Pennsylvania beekeeper wintering in Florida.

Worker bees are "disappearing," depleting colonies that were once 15,000-strong, entomology Professor Nancy Ostiguy said. While the bodies of both the dead and surviving bees at these colonies are being examined, she said researchers simply cannot account for many of the lost bees. Additionally, other colonies and pests that would normally ransack the resources of these abandoned colonies are mysteriously staying away.

"It's very bizarre," Ostiguy said.

Entomology Professor Diana Cox-Foster trekked to Washington, D.C., yesterday in an attempt to raise awareness about CCD and ask for emergency funding. She is part of a group of Penn State professors that has joined forces with experts at the University of Montana, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Pennsylvania and Florida departments of agriculture.

Four months since the group's inception, it has a lot of leads and very few answers.

"We basically have many of the leading experts on bees and bee biology involved, but we do not know why the bees are dying yet," Cox-Foster said.

Frazier said a test of the disorder's effect on in-state beekeepers could come as early as next month. Pennsylvania, one of the biggest apple producers in the eastern U.S., has an apple pollination season that typically runs from the last week of April to the first week of May, she said.

"We'll be waiting to see if we have enough bees," Frazier said.

While there may be enough bees to create a sufficient supply, consumers should also be concerned about the potential for a lot of bad apples. Fruits like apples require several pollinations to become fully formed, meaning an insufficient amount of pollination results in deformed fruit, Cox-Foster said.

Frazier said researchers are examining whether a known or unknown pathogen is causing the problem, or if the bees are suffering from a lack of nutrition -- possibly attributable to the effects of global warming on their traditional nectar sources.

Also, Frazier said they are also looking into the possibility that the bees may be succumbing to the stress they face over time.

Because of their necessity in plant growth, the honeybees are transported to farms around the country in accordance with the pollination seasons of different crops. This year, beekeepers are scrambling to fill each other's orders, she said.

Asked for a hunch as to what might be at the root of the problem, Frazier said a host of factors were still on the table, and there is probably more than one culprit.

"It's most likely a combination of things; it's hard for us to believe it's one sole cause," she said.



Bees disappearing as mystery ailment sweeps U.S.

Updated Thu. Mar. 29 2007 10:52 PM ET News Staff

Bees are vanishing across the United States, leaving empty colonies behind and putting honey production in jeopardy -- and nobody knows why.

California beekeeper David Bradshaw said he's trying not to dwell on the fact that half his bees are gone.

"I'd be an emotional mess if I just kept thinking about the bees dying," he told CTV News.

Experts gathered in Washington Thursday at a House Agriculture Subcommittee, describing the mysterious threat as "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD).

The remains of dead bees usually remain inside a hive, unless worker bees carry their bodies them out. But colonies affected by CCD show no signs of the ailment, aside from a notable absence of mature bees.

It's possible the affected bees abandon the hive before dying, but scientists have yet to understand why or how.

In the past six months, U.S. beekeepers estimate they have lost between 50 and 90 per cent of their honeybees. One colony can have 60,000 bees in the summer, and that number drops to about 20,000 in the winter.

The condition of Canada's bees is not fully known, but the U.S. Congress was told it's likely Canadian hives likely share a similar fate.

"Recently, we have reports out of Canada that they have the exact same symptoms and collapses ongoing there," said Diana Cox-Foster, a professor of entomology with the Pennsylvania State University.

Scientists, beekeepers and officials started a CCD group in December 2006 to examine the cause of the disorder, and hopefully find a cure.

Not only are bees crucial to the agriculture industry in the production of honey, they also work as pollinators. Roughly 75 per cent of flowering plants require pollinators to bear fruit, including crops that produce the resources needed for drugs and fuel.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of Montana and Penn State are leading the study of CCD.

So far, they have noticed that affected colonies are still active, with remaining bees looking after developing bees. But when a colony is weakened, it's usually taken over by rival bees and other insects looking for honey.

And when scientists examined individual bees in affected colonies, they showed weakened immune systems and an increase in bacteria and foreign fungi.

Caird E. Rexroad, from the Agricultural Research Service, echoed that fact when he testified in front of the committee Thursday.

"We believe that some form of stress may be suppressing immune systems of bees, ultimately contributing to CCD," CNN quoted Rexroad as saying.

U.S. beekeepers had already taken a huge hit from varroa mite, a parasite that killed more than half of some colonies and also affected wild honeybee hives.

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Postby Jeff » Tue Apr 10, 2007 10:17 am

A report today from New Brunswick:

Strange affliction killing N.B. honey bees

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2007 | 10:21 AM AT
CBC News

With a mysterious disease or parasite ravaging beekeepers' hives in New Brunswick, honey producers in the region are in for a tough season.

Beekeeper Paul Vautour says 80 per cent of his 180 bee hives are full of dead bees.

The president of the New Brunswick Beekeepers Association, Vautour said half the beekeepers in the province report having the same problems he's experiencing.

"We think there might be something in the environment that they're getting into and getting disoriented," Vautour said. "Those hives were boiling last fall when I put them away, and now there's a tiny little cluster in them. A lot of the bees have absconded and not come back."

Beekeepers in the northeast United States and in Ontario have been reporting similar problems.

Beekeepers from at least 22 states have reported unusual colony deaths, and some commercial beekeepers have reported losing more than 50 per cent of their colonies.

Vautour said U.S. researchers are already working to get to the bottom of the problem, but no solution is in sight.

Members of the Beekeepers Association will meet with New Brunswick agriculture officials later this week.

In the meantime, Vautour says he doesn't expect consumers to be much affected this year because a steady honey supply from Europe and Asia will help keep prices stable.

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Postby Jeff » Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:50 am

From the UK:

Threat to agriculture as mystery killer wipes out honeybee hives

John Vidal, environment editor
Thursday April 12, 2007
The Guardian

When John Chapple, one of London's largest keepers of honeybees, opened his 40 hives after the winter, he was shocked: 23 were empty, seven contained dead bees, and only 10 were unaffected by what seemed to be a mystery plague.

Beekeepers are used to diseases sweeping through their colonies, and, nationally, nearly one in seven colonies dies naturally each winter. But this seemed very different to Mr Chapple, who is head of the London Beekeepers Association and has 20 years' experience with the insects and their diseases.

"The problem was that most of the bees had just disappeared. It was like the Marie Celeste. There was no chance they had been stolen," he said yesterday. "The ones that were left did not seem to have been attacked by varroa [the tiny parasitical mite that beekeepers have learned to live with since it arrived from Asia 15 years ago]. I really do not know what happened".

Mr Chapple's experience has chimed with other beekeepers. "Many colleagues and bee clubs tell me that they are experiencing something similar. The Pinner and Ruislip beekeepers' group told me only this morning that they have lost 50% to 75% of their bees. I don't know what is happening, but the bees are just going," he said.

Many British beekeepers fear they are witnessing the start of an alarming phenomenon which is sweeping the US and Europe. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is possibly the most serious disease yet faced by bees.

According to the national bee unit, a branch of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, its "symptoms appear to be the total collapse of bee colonies, with a complete absence of bees or only a few remaining in the hive". The unit says no one has any idea what is causing CCD. Theories in the US, where 24 states are affected and losses of 50% to 90% of colonies are being reported, include environmental stresses, malnutrition, unknown pathogens, the use of antibiotics, mites, pesticides and genetically modified crops.

Because bees pollinate millions of hectares of fruit trees and crops, the implications for agriculture are enormous. "Approximately 40% of my 2,000 colonies are currently dead and this is the greatest winter mortality I have ever experienced," Gene Brandi, a member of the California State Beekeepers Association, told the US Congress recently.

In Spain, thousands of colonies are said to have been lost, and up to 40% of Swiss bees are reported to have disappeared or died in the past year. Heavy losses have also been reported in Portugal, Italy and Greece.

Government bee inspectors met yesterday, but Mike Brown, head of the national bee unit based in York, reported no signs of CCD in Britain. "There is no evidence in the UK right now of colony collapse disorder," he said in a statement. "The majority of inspectors said that they can put the current mortalities in honeybee populations around the UK down to varroa or varroasis."

"I just don't know where they get their information," said Mr Chapple. "They took away some of my bees but I have heard nothing. All I know that something is very wrong with our bees."

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