Lots of things start to make sense now, now that somebody has figured out at least some of the problem.
That was the first thing that came to mind when I read the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about viruses, proteins, malfunctioning ribosomes and Colony Collapse Disorder.
Scientists at the University of Illinois and the USDA, using information gleaned from the newly completed honey bee genome and a tool to arise from that information call a microarray (think of this as a massive screening of a tiny bit of honey bee tissue testing for hundreds, probably more, maladies, all at the same time from the same tissue sample), have found that honey bees from colonies suffering from symptoms of Colony Collapse Disorder have had the cellular structures in their bodies that manufacture the proteins necessary to combat stresses, pesticides, nutrition problems and more, compromised by viruses. These viruses, and there are many, one of which is the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus looked at earlier, essentially capture the ribosome function of cells and hijack their capability to produce the components necessary to combat these problems, and force them to produce only more virus proteins.
Moreover, varroa mites are carriers of these kinds of viruses. Therefore, high varroa populations should enhance the probability that CCD symptoms will show up in a colony. And, mostly that''s true.
Do you see why it all makes sense now? Stressed colonies that have been overtaken by these viruses are not able to combat any of the legion of problems assailing a colony because the virus has a death grip on their protein-producing capability. Colonies collapsed because they couldn't fight the good fight and crashed. It's no wonder bees just don't seem to be the same any more. They aren't.
This discovery came from the University of Illinois, led by Reed Johnson, a Doctoral student there, working with May Berenbaum, entomology Professor and the Department Chair, and Gene Robinson, neuroscience professor at U of I and co-principal investigator. These were the folks who were in the thick of things investigating and finishing the honey bee genome study just recently completed. Reed received the prestigious Eastern Apicultural Society Student Award this summer at our meeting.
So now what? Now scientists can look at the molecular structure of a colony, perhaps a single bee, maybe even a queen or the drones she mates with, and tell you if they have, or their off spring will have this propensity to be susceptible to a picorna-like virus that causes this, or perhaps allows this to occur.
That information in itself is valuable. But still, how do you get a honey bee to eat when its ribosomes are compromised? Stay tuned for chapter two ....
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