Feeds

Fungus fingered in US honeybee wipeout

Possible cause of Colony Collapse Disorder?

The Power of One Infographic

Scientists may have fingered a possible major contributory cause to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) - the hitherto unexplained disappearance of millions of honeybees in Europe, the US and seemingly Taiwan.

According to the Los Angeles Times, researchers have identified the single-celled fungus Nosema ceranae in dead bees from hives in Merced County, California. Other teams have similarly spotted the fungus in affected hives across the US, as well as two further fungi and 12 viral infections.

Powdered dead bee samples from the California hives were analysed by Dr. Charles Wick of the US Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland using a "new system of genetic analysis". Wick pinned down several viruses, "including members of a recently identified genus called iflaviruses". These RNA-containing viruses infect the Varroa mite, which in turn lives on honeybees, and scientists speculate they may be fatal to bees.

The center's Evan W. Skowronski was able to offer a more clear-cut explanation for CCD, though. He said: "There was a lot of stuff from Nosema, about 25 per cent of the total. That meant there was more than there was bee RNA. That leads me to believe that the bee died from that particular pathogen."

Skowronski forwarded the tested bee samples to UC San Francisco biochemist Joe DeRisi, who confirmed "evidence of the viruses, along with genetic material from N. ceranae".

The upshot of all this is hope for the US's beekeepers. If N. ceranae is largely responsible for CCD, then scientists hope the antibiotic fumagilli - used to control the closely-related Nosema apis - might do the trick. It would be a timely cure: since last Autumn, 2.4 million commercial colonies across the United States have succumbed to CCD, according to Jerry Hayes of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Gainesville.

However, DeRisi said at a meeting in Washington DC where 60 bee experts had got together to discuss CCD that the results were "highly preliminary". He warned: "We don't want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved."

Entomologist Diana Cox-Foster of Pennsylvania State University explained that Nosema ceranae represents "one of many pathogens" in the bees. She elaborated: "By itself, it is probably not the culprit … but it may be one of the key players." ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.