One branch of the USDA has finally let go of some of the $1.4 million they are supposed to distribute to researchers for the study of Colony Collapse Disorder. They are still sitting on some of it though, I hear, not because they havent got it but some mid level manager hasnt got around to doing the paper work. Its been more than a month ... fiddling while Rome burns, and bees die.
But this $1.4 million is still a drop in the bucket for whats needed, and while the industry has been generous in volunteering funds and spending money it was supposed to spend on other things, its a small industry and the well isnt infinitely deep.
And, it seems, that if the farm bill money is to be released it will only be so if there is pressure from the people who pay the bills ... that would be you, by the way. Below is only a partial list of what is desperately needed to begin or continue studies from only one of the groups in this arena. Others still need funds too, and they are waiting for the release of these funds, or at least making them available for competitive grants.
There are currently just over 4,000 samples waiting to be analyzed for pathogens and pesticides that have been collected from 8 different studies, surveys and volunteered samples sent in by beekeepers. Itll cost a total of $250,000 to do this.
Researchers still need to conduct toxicity tests of individual pesticides to discover their relationship with CCD, if any, and determine the sub-lethal effects of pesticides and selected combinations of pesticides on bees and other pollinators. And an important study is to determine if pesticides, when combined with other problems, like viruses are responsible for, or aid in causing CCD.
Available funding for this activity
So far donations for these tests has been substantial, totaling just over $400,000, though a part of this comes from that $1.4 million grant. Still needed just to conduct these tests is the $155,000 for additional people to actually do the research.
Another factor is that investigating pesticides requires expensive equipment, highly trained personnel and exacting standards to meet FDA/EPA compliance, and available labs are severely limited. Plus, theres hardly anywhere that can actually teach grad students to do these tests, so that, too has to be set up.
Equip an MS facility with the appropriate hardware, software and toxic substance libraries for reference; salary for a qualified GLP technician for 4 years: $1,500,000
Pathogens are clearly part of the problem underlying CCD. Increased pathogen loads are found in colonies undergoing CCD and suffering collapse. And viral diseases are not only are infecting the honey bee but also native pollinators. It is critical to learn how these diseases are impacting the native pollinators and if these and other newly discovered viral diseases are contributing to the overall decline in native pollinators.
Another essential component is the ability to effectively and efficiently analyze the pathogens present in the large number of samples that have been, and will be collected. New detection methods are also needed that are faster and more sensitive across several magnitudes and that can identify known pathogens and parasites.
Key investigations include finding out how do stresses such as sub-lethal pesticide exposure affect the disease status of a colony? And what is the impact of honey bee viruses and other pathogens on native pollinators?
They also need to know how can testing and sampling capacity be increased to detect bee and pollinator diseases, and what measures can be taken to decrease the overall disease prevalence in a colony and increase colony health and strength?
Presently, The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and others have contributed about $152,000 toward these projects, but researchers at Penn State conservatively estimate that, for personnel and the necessary surveys that need to be taken an additional $4,055,000 is needed.
What is the role of genetic diversity in the overall health of colonies and the honey bee population? Key investigations in this area include studying mating frequency and disease expression, immune response to mating frequency, measuring the health of production queens, and looking indepth at the feral population of honey bees in the U.S.
Currently, theres about $486,000 to carry out this work but an additional $125,000 is needed to hire the people to do the necessary work.
If my math is correct, this one group is asking for about $5,000,000, spread over several years, to complete their studies. This is in addition to the $1.4 million already (almost) awarded, and doesnt include the many, many thousands of dollars already contributed by government and industry. Other groups, primarily those University and Federal researchers in Montana have put together similar requests totaling somewhere in the neighborhood of an additional $2 4,000,000. And theres no project overlap with these two groups so theres no duplication of effort. Well, thats not quite correct ... they are both looking for a pathogen base to CCD ... but they are using vastly different tools to accomplish this. Is one better than the other ... or faster, or cheaper, or more reliable?
And if you want to add a kicker, tell them about the study just released in the Journal of Economics that estimated the economic value of insect pollination (not just bees, but all insects) worldwide at about $215 Billion annually, for 2005, the latest year data is available. That comes to, says the study, right about 9.5% of the total value of the worlds agricultural food production. Whats pollinated? Fruits and vegetables combined amount to about $140 Billion of that, followed by edible oilseed crops with a loss of about $55 Billion ...
When measured in how many groceries ... that $5 million begins to look like a good investment, dont you think?
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.