The USDA announced on May 25th that preliminary evidence suggests two pathogens, that, when working in concert, can lead to the decline in a honey bee colony now called Colony Collapse Disorder.
This tandem attack has been suggested previously, both here and in other reports, but this is the first report to make it past scientific peer review. A Montana researcher has also been steering this research through what seems to be a desert of common sense in the traditional academic media, who seem to be hooked on the Israeli virus suspected some time ago as the leading cause of colony collapse disorder.
USDA Scientist Jay Evans, from the Beltsville Bee Lab presented his findings at the General Meeting Of Microbiology in San Diego, and was available for a live interview.
The two pathogens are not even closely related. One, a fungus, labeled Nosema cerena, enters the honey bee gut and damages the epithelial cells to complete its life cycle. These damaged cells provide an entryway for members of the RNA virus family Dicistroviridae to enter and wreak their havoc.
Jay suspects other stresses in the honey bee system are contributing to this, particularly poor nutrition. He suggested that colony collapse disorder tends to be a seasonal phenomena, occurring primarily in the spring, when a colony begins two very stressful activities. Old, overwintering bees must begin to both forage for additional food to feed their newly emerging brood, and at the same time convert that new found food into the royal and worker jelly needed by the new bees to grow correctly. (In a typical situation later in the season bees do one or the other activity, but not both, and never at the same time.) Both of these activities are incredibly taxing, and bees consume exceptional amounts of energy often absorbing protein from their own bodies to compensate for this additional stress.
Nutritionally challenged bees require significant amounts of food to continue these activities, and Nosema cerena-damaged bees are unable to consume and utilize enough food to make this work. Starving to death because of this compromise, in a sense, is suspected, and the colony collapses.
Management to increase food stores in the fall for consumption in the spring, and controlling the Nosema fungus are recommendations to help beekeepers deal with colony collapse disorder. At least for now.
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