mm131: More data, less clarity in bee colony collapse

September 7, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Bees are back! In the news, anyway. Faithful reader may recall that we poured out bee colony news in July (here and here). Here’s an update from the always useful (and regretfully not often enough read by your faithful scribe) Ars Technica:


By John Timmer | Published: September 06, 2007 – 01:02PM CT


When last we visited the issue of sudden colony collapse, which is worrying farmers by emptying beehives across the US, a parasitic fungus was being tapped as a potential cause. An early access publication in today’s Science Express revisits the issue and, although it finds the fungus is more frequent in infected samples, the study suggests a virus is the actual culprit. But a global look at the parasite load in these sick bees suggests there are still some unanswered questions.

The new work performed large scale sequencing on a number of samples from colonies that have collapsed, plus a few that have remained healthy. At the bacterial level, everything looked reasonably normal; there were no major differences between the two types of hives. The same was true for a trypanosomal sequence that appears to be part of the Leishmania family. Funguses, including the one previously suggested as a potential cause, also appeared in unaffected hives. Things finally got interesting when viruses were examined. One virus, Israeli acute paralysis virus of bees, had a 95 percent association with colony collapse.

So, maybe virus, after all:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

More data, less clarity in bee colony collapse

What you have to love about science and scientists (and MUDGE works among them, and is always impressed): the answer is out there, if only you (can afford to) look hard (and long) enough.

If only we could count on the social sciences (and politics) to function in such a way that ultimately getting to the truth (instead of securing the next grant, or getting elected to high office on superficialities) would be the manifest goal.

And, now, maybe farmers just might get their bees back. And that can’t be bad.

It’s it for now. Thanks,