In a room designed to hold about 450 people, a record breaking 800 strained to hear and see a host of speakers present the latest information on Colony Collapse Disorder. More were out in the hall trying to get in. It was standing room only for all four hours.
In fact, the meeting itself, the first National Beekeepers Conference in Sacramento broke every record in the book for attendance, for quality of speakers, for abundance of information, for the extent of merchandise available to attendees, and for the goodwill of beekeepers everywhere. It was by anybodys standards the biggest and best meeting of the beekeeping industry in the past 50 years.
But it was Colony Collapse Disorder that ruled the day, and the week. The last post here discussed the problems pesticides continue to cause bees and beekeepers, and the fact that, essentially little is being done to combat the problem. One speaker summed it up by saying he thought Big Ag had USDA in its pocket -- such is the feeling in the beekeeping community.
But there was more than pesticides discussed in this jam-packed session. One of the presenters gave a particularly good picture of her thoughts, "CCD", she said, "is the honey bees surrender to stress". /p>
Then the stresses were laid out.
The new Nosema (Nosema is a fungal infection of the honey bee digestive system) seems to be more of a problem than first thought since it causes problems more in the summer than in the winter and early spring like the old Nosema does. Treatment can be difficult since summer is honey production time. The old Nosema is still enough of a problem for beekeepers though, and that is getting more attention than it has in a long time.
One thing researchers have found is that honey bees in general, when compared to other insects, are weak in being able to detoxify pest and pathogen invasions. This discovery comes from information gleaned from the honey bee genome project a couple of years ago. More and more discoveries are being made as a result of that far-sighted project.
One good piece of news is that the Weslaco Honey Bee Research Lab in south Texas has been funded for a position of an Insect Toxicologist, a position long vacant in the Bee Lab system, and CCD has finally brought it to bear.
Other information....a new pathogenic fungus infesting CCD bees has been discovered, found only in Australian bees. Bacteria not previously identified were discovered, but perhaps they are symbiotic in honey bee digestion...thats still to be determined.
As mentioned, both of the Nosema diseases were found in CCD bees, and high levels of trypanosomes were found in CCD bees, but low levels were found in all bees...their function isnt known.
And virus...Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus and seven other viruses were identified, but IAPV seems to be the leading occupant of CCD bees. This creature keeps showing up at the most inopportune times for bees, and scientists keep finding it when they look at CCD bees.
It seems to be more and more likely that the kerfuffle over where and when IAPV became a problem is going away as scientists find out more and more about it. IAPV seems to be able to change rapidly, too, like most viruses, plus there seem to be more groups of infection (theres an Australian group, a Montana group, and a small hive beetle group) and none of these are closely related to the originally identified Israeli group.
Anti-viral treatments are being developed, and fast, affordable identification systems, at least two of them, are being put in place as soon as they can....stay tuned.
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