That both the prestigious TV show Nature, shown on PBS, and 60 Minutes, airing on CBS recently covered the phenomena of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in Sunday night prime time bears noting.
The Nature show -- The Silence Of The Bees -- was the first of several documentaries in the making to be released looking at the subject, and the 60 Minutes segment was one of the first to provide nation-wide coverage. Both did, in my opinion, a credible, though somewhat incomplete job of reporting the story.
Now add to these the special upcoming seminar on CCD sponsored by the Academic Grandfather of all Honey Bee studies -- The Entomological Society of America -- at their once-a-year international convention in December, and you might conclude that CCD is of some importance to not only the environmentally aware (Nature), but in-depth news organizations (60 Minutes), and hard core science (The Ent Society). Your conclusion would be dead on.
In case youve missed these two television shows or any of the thousands of newspaper, magazine, TV or radio stories that have been published in the past year on this subject, and you just cant get away for the Entomology meeting in San Diego in December, let me briefly review the situation.
In October, 2006, David Hackenberg, a migratory beekeeper from Pennsylvania moved his bees to the orange groves in Florida to gather orange blossom honey, and to do some R & R time after a busy last season and another to come next season, and to grow and divide and get ready.
During a regular check of one of his 40 colony beeyards Dave noticed there were no bees flying from any of the colonies. None. No bees at all. All that was to be found in each colony was a queen, a handful of very young nurse bees, plus lots and lots of brood (baby bees not yet emerged), eggs and honey and pollen stores ... and nothing else. For the most part, 90% to 95% of the bees that had been in that colony only days before were gone. Poof. Perplexed, Dave looked inside the colony, outside the front door, even on the ground some distance from the colonies searching for dead bees, crawling bees, bees of some kind. None.
Dave immediately contacted the scientists at Penn State and the regulatory and extension departments of both Pennsylvania and Florida. They came, took samples, studied the samples ... and were stumped. Additional experts were drawn in -- USDA scientists, scientists from Penn State, the University of Montana, the Army, Columbia University and others. A survey was put on the internet and it immediately became obvious others were experiencing the same problem. Eventually, some 10% of the colonies in the U.S. reportedly died of this new malady during the winter of 2006/07. (Dont confuse this with the 30% figure you often hear because 20 -- 25% of all bees perish each winter from natural causes without help from this new disease.)
Meanwhile, some progress was being made on the cause of the problem -- examinations revealed a plethora of problems the bees were suffering from, and viruses -- both known and unknown -- showed up, too. Finally the name Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD, came to be.
Eventually, several pests and predators were found often enough that, even though one seemingly unique virus showed up, the researchers couldnt say for sure what the problem was, or wasnt.
Then, a multitude of issues arose when the professional paper was published in Science, but the bottom line seems to be -- "Well, its probably a mix of several stresses diseases, viruses, pests, maybe pesticides..."
One thing that did catch the eye of not only the beekeeping community but the researchers and government regulators was the coincidence of this new trouble and the first-in-eighty years importation of foreign honey bees into the U.S. from Australia. A connection? Right now, nobody is saying, though everyone suspects a connection. Maybe? Maybe not? But then, no one has shown that this new problem and the now-identified virus -- Israeli Acute Paralyses Virus (IAPV) -- have anything at all to do with each other, since a host of other pathogens were also associated with it. Maybe, just maybe IAPV comes in after this new devil does its duty. No one knows, or, no one is saying ... yet.
Whats in store? More research for sure, as long as more money comes along. The USDA has promised some and Congress is supposed to bring on more. Some money is ready to be spent but the competitive theater of the University grant system takes time.
This fall, already, scattered reports of CCD appearing again have begun to filter in from those affected last season, and from some not affected last season. As of late October its too early to tell if it is CCD, and if it is, will it be as bad or worse this season.
Elsewhere on TheDailyGreen.com is the whole series of CCD reports submitted earlier this year by The Beekeeper and others. An additional in-depth collection of articles, stories and reports on the web is at www.BeeCulture.com if you want more information on CCD than you thought possible. Check them both out if you want more of this story.
Meanwhile, stay tuned to TheDailyGreen.com's Save the Bees special ongoing report and The Beekeepers regular blog entries for continuous updates. And check out www.BeeCulture.com for additional information, and for immediate news, sign up for Bee Cultures Catch The Buzz newsletter.
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