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  • Sally Furniss
    Bee diseases

    Public release date: 2-May-2008
    [ <script language="javascript" type="text/javascript"><!-- document.write('Print Article '); // --> </script>Print Article | E-mail Article<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript"><!-- document.write(' | Close Window'); // --> </script> | Close Window ]

    Contact: Lucy Mansfield
    Bees disease -- 1 step closer to finding a cure

    Scientists in Germany have discovered a new mechanism of infection for the most fatal bee disease. American Foulbrood (AFB) is the only infectious disease which can kill entire colonies of bees. Every year, this notifiable disease is causing considerable economic loss to beekeepers all over the world. The only control measure is to destroy the infected hive.
    The mechanism of infection (pathogenic mechanism) was originally thought to be through the growth of a bacterium called Paenibacillus larvae in the organ cavity of honey bee larvae. The accepted view was that the bacteria germinate preferentially at either end of the gut of honey bee larvae then make holes in the gut wall and enter the larval organ cavity, the presumed primary place of bacterial proliferation.
    In a paper published in Environmental Microbiology, Professor Elke Genersch and colleagues in Berlin explain that they have discovered that these bacteria cause infection in a completely different way. They colonize the larval midgut, do most of their multiplying in the mid-gut - living from the food ingested by the larvae - until eventually the honey bee larvae gut contains nothing but these disease-causing (pathogenic) bacteria. It isn?t until then that the bacteria ?burst? out of the gut into the organ cavity thereby killing the larvae. These findings are a major breakthrough in honeybee pathology.
    ?Now that we fully understand the way in which this disease works, we can start to look at ways of preventing the spread of infection? said Professor Genersch.
    Honeybees are important pollinators of crops, fruit and wild flowers. Therefore, they are indispensable for a sustainable and profitable agriculture but also for the maintenance of the non-agricultural ecosystem. Honeybees are attacked by numerous pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. For most, if not all of these diseases, the molecular pathogenesis is poorly understood hampering the development of new ideas about how to prevent and combat honeybee diseases.
    Professor Genersch added: ?Molecular understanding of pathogen-host interactions is vital for the development of effective measures against infectious diseases. Therefore, in the long run, our findings will help to save large numbers of bees all over the world.?

    Scientists in Germany have discovered a new mechanism of infection for the most fatal bee disease. American Foulbrood is the only infectious disease which can kill entire colonies of bees. Every year, this notifiable disease is causing considerable economic loss to beekeepers all over the world. The only control measure is to destroy the infected hive.

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  • Snowy Owl
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    I would like to thank all of you for watching the Bees problem since last February, it has now reach the Major Economical Level Interests.

    I Have started a new thread and we shall go forward on the new one since this one has delivered, I will now close it.

    The new thread, phase two of this globally unfolding event is now at

    I invite you to consider Moderator G?nseerpel Post
    Fowl mites as AI vectors? in relation to this outbreak, at least in parts of the world where H5N1 has been identify.

    Thank you

    Leave a comment:

  • deadandalive
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    Originally posted by AlaskaDenise View Post
    Honey, I'm Gone

    Abandoned Beehives Are a Scientific Mystery and a Metaphor for Our Tenuous Times

    By Joel Garreau
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, June 1, 2007; Page C01

    In "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," just before Earth is destroyed to make way for a hyperspatial express route, all the dolphins in the world disappear, leaving behind just the message: "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

    Now, around the world, honeybees are vanishing en masse, leaving their humans engaged in a furious attempt to figure out the meaning of their exodus. Entire colonies are following the Shakespearean stage direction, "Exeunt omnes." They're flying off and not returning. Commercial beekeepers open their hives and find them empty except for a queen, a few immature bees and abundant honey and pollen. The rest of the bees are simply gone, leaving behind not even dead bodies.


    "Good. For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble." -- "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
    Albert Einstein said if bees where to disapear man would have but acouple of years left.but then he was wrong about quantum physics, yet his statement shows an understanding of interdependancy

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  • AlaskaDenise
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    Honey, I'm Gone

    Abandoned Beehives Are a Scientific Mystery and a Metaphor for Our Tenuous Times

    By Joel Garreau
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, June 1, 2007; Page C01

    In "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," just before Earth is destroyed to make way for a hyperspatial express route, all the dolphins in the world disappear, leaving behind just the message: "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

    Now, around the world, honeybees are vanishing en masse, leaving their humans engaged in a furious attempt to figure out the meaning of their exodus. Entire colonies are following the Shakespearean stage direction, "Exeunt omnes." They're flying off and not returning. Commercial beekeepers open their hives and find them empty except for a queen, a few immature bees and abundant honey and pollen. The rest of the bees are simply gone, leaving behind not even dead bodies.

    A third of our food supply -- including much of the boredom-relieving stuff, from cranberries to cucumbers -- is dependent on animal pollinators like the honeybee. As a result, this mystery is rapidly joining the all-star ranks of millennial end-time run-for-your-lives threats, right up there with Y2K, mad cow disease, West Nile virus, SARS and avian flu.

    Of equal note is the way the bees are setting a new standard in human emotional resonance. Absolutely no one yet knows why the bees are checking out, though not for lack of abundant effort on the part of the world's scientists. This dearth of data allows us to project our greatest anxieties onto the bees.

    If what you're searching for is an entire spectrum of moral lessons regarding the evils of human behavior, this crisis is even better than global warming. If you hate globalization, then you will doubtless see its evils as patent in the disappearance of the bees. Pesticides? Genetically modified foods? Those, too, are convenient hypotheses in the absence of contradictory information. Even cellphones have been offered as an explanation. If you're driven crazy by them, then so must be the bees.

    Isn't it obvious?

    Our fuzzy, hard-working, sweetness-producing icons have become our most powerful Rorschach test.

    As go the bees, so go our hopes and fears for the future.

    'Mad Bee Disease'
    <!-- BREAK -->
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    Jeff Pettis reports that he has become one of the most popular soccer dads in the Washington metropolitan area.

    "My wife says she's tired of hearing about it," says the co-leader of the huge national research group working on "colony collapse disorder," as the phenomenon is known. An estimated quarter of the country's 2.4 million colonies of Apis mellifera have been lost since winter. Similar reports are pouring in from Spain to Germany to Brazil to Taiwan.

    Pettis is a man in the right place at the right time. He heads the Bee Research Laboratory of the Agricultural Research Service at the Department of Agriculture in Beltsville. His group includes scientists from Columbia, Penn State, the University of Illinois, North Carolina

    "Most people may not be able to tell the difference between a yellow jacket and a bumblebee," he says. But now, as the news of the honeybees captures the popular imagination, "people who never even knew what I did before come up to me on the soccer sidelines and say, 'Hey, I want to find out what's really going on. Tell me the real story.' "

    "I tell them, 'We're still working on it.' "

    This hardly slows the questions.

    Colonies caught in the act of collapsing seem to display a raft of diseases.
    Is this the AIDS of bees?

    "I don't like that particular analogy," Pettis says. "We actually don't have any evidence that the immune system is compromised. It's one of the ideas that we have, but the immune response genes are not turned on or off."

    (Demonstrating its importance to commercial agriculture, even before the current crisis the honeybee was one of the first insects to have its entire genome sequenced.)

    What do you think of the French referring to it as "mad bee disease"?
    "They were using that because they thought some of their losses over the past 10 years were connected to low-level pesticides. It's one myth. But we can't make the connection to disorientation."

    Where did the cellphone idea come from?

    "The authors of that story were from Germany. It wasn't even a cellphone. It was an old cordless phone. They tested it in small hives and saw some very minor effects. We work with bees in a lot of areas where you can't even get a cellphone signal. The amount of energy is very, very remote. Even the authors themselves now say that was a big stretch."

    What are the other theories?

    "My favorite theory, which I throw out, is that the bees are out there creating their own crop circles, working very hard, physically pushing the crops down with their little legs. It fits. It explains the loss of bees and crop circles at the same time. At taxpayers' expense. I want credit for it."
    Pettis pauses for effect.

    "People say, 'You're kidding, right?' "

    He is. But his "theory" fits the facts as well as other wild surmises. These include a secret plot by Osama bin Laden to destroy American agriculture, and "the rapture of the bees" as a harbinger of end times.

    No Stinging Indictments
    <!-- BREAK -->
    <HR align=left color=#cccccc SIZE=1>
    What about the comment attributed to Einstein that "if the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination . . . no more men!"

    "That gets to the heart of the story," Pettis says. "I don't personally believe that the bees are the canary in the coal mine. You don't have to bring in larger human destruction of the environment. I can see things going on in the ways bees are managed that explains it."

    For example, it turns out that not only does U.S. agribusiness grow more than 80 percent of the world's supply of almonds (who knew the world consumed so much marzipan?), but in February, when all those groves need to be pollinated, fully half of the commercial beehives in the entire United States are trucked to California's Central Valley on 18-wheelers.

    Big-time beekeepers constantly haul their bees all over the continent to service the next crop of apples, blueberries, watermelons or whatever.

    Their bees are the planet's hardest-working migrants.

    Scientists have a hunch that this may be stressful. They do not yet have the data to prove it. But some commercial beekeepers seem to be hit harder than others, suggesting that their management practices may be a fruitful area of inquiry.

    If this hypothesis were to hold up, the implication is that some corporate bees around the world are heir to a combination of problems that may or may not be faced by honeybees kept by small-time operators, not to mention the honeybees that have escaped into the wild. All pollinators are in decline, according to a recent National Academy of Sciences study. But it is by no means clear that colony collapse disorder affects any of the 17,000 other species of bees known to exist, or the 13,000 additional species of bees estimated to exist, not to mention the 200,000 other species of animal pollinators such as beetles, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and even bats. This also leaves aside the two-thirds of the world's food that is pollinated not by critters, but by wind and rain, such as the grasslike crops that include corn.

    None of this, however, has decreased in the slightest the buzz emanating from humans seeking moral lessons in the domesticated honeybees.

    Particularly disappointed by the lack of evidence are those rooting for an indictment of the cellphone.

    "We now know it isn't cellphones, alas, alas," says Pamela McCorduck, the futurist and author of "Machines Who Think."

    "I so longed to shut such people up with a sanctimonious 'You're killing the bees, you clod!' "

    "There are bees at the pool and I haven't been able to get rid of them for 10 years," says John Brockman, the author and literary agent who works the intersection of culture and technology. "Now I go to the pool, whip out the cellphone, point it at them, and say, 'Call on Line 1!' "

    "I don't think anyone really has a clue as to what's going on, but if it turns out to be cellphones, it's the greatest metaphor in the history of metaphors," says Bill McKibben, the best-selling environmentalist author of "The End of Nature."

    "Starving the planet in pursuit of one more text message with your broker seems the very epitome of going out with a whimper, not a bang."

    Collapse of the Machine

    <!-- BREAK -->
    <HR align=left color=#cccccc SIZE=1>
    The disappearance of the bees nonetheless has mythic depth. It captures intuitions people have about the human condition. A hive is an organism, like a nation. It may be made up of individuals, but it produces results beyond the imagination of any one of its members. To think of one unraveling is profoundly unsettling.

    The most optimistic metaphor for our interconnected world, for example, is that by wiring up all the planet's humans, we are creating a "hive mind" with startling powers. The analogy is to the bees. You can look at a single bee for as long as you like and never guess that a large number of them would turn into an amazingly productive super-organism like a hive. What sort of wonders will humans create when billions of us come together in unprecedented ways?

    Already you can see primitive outlines of such a productive transformation in Internet venues Wikipedia, eBay, Amazon, Linux, Facebook, YouTube, Second Life and all the rest.

    What other unexpected things will brew in this bionic hivelike supermind?
    Creating a global hive mind "doesn't cure all our ills, but it works for a lot of stuff that we would never have guessed would possibly work," says Kevin Kelly, a founding editor of Wired magazine who popularized the notion in his book "Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World."

    What happens, then, if the beehive is unsustainable? Kelly wonders. Will the new hive mind of the Internet someday fly off while we are at lunch, leaving us suddenly dumb and alone?

    What institutions are next?

    Naturalist Barry Lopez wonders if the disappearance of the bees is a metaphor for the end of the federal government.

    "The colony collapse is the collapse of a piece of machinery like a federal bureaucracy," says Lopez, the National Book Award-winning author of "Arctic Dreams."

    "It's the rise of the local. It's the biological expression of the marginalization of the federal government. It's the silver lining in the Bush cloud. It's become crystal clear. If you want the job done -- carbon footprints, climate change, really important stuff -- don't rely on the federal government. The day of contacting your congressman is over. It's the collapse of large-scale institutions."

    "Not that big a deal," Lopez feels.

    "From an ecological standpoint, it is opening up the possibility for local pollinators like the mason bee to come back." Honeybees, after all, are an introduced species. They were brought here by European explorers and settlers. The Indians called them "white men's flies."

    Lopez sees local people creating local food using local means in a turn to self-reliance and resiliency, away from a global system that uses water in the desert of Arizona to create cotton to ship to China to be made into T-shirts to be sold at malls in Maryland.

    But maybe this is over-thinking the situation. Bill Joy thinks the collapse of the bee colonies is a harbinger of our increasingly complicated world coming apart.
    "I think that we will see many more such 'era of limits' mysteries, some of which turn out to be difficult to impossible to unravel, as causal wires of which we are unaware, many of them nonlinear, are tripped," says Joy, the respected former chief scientist of Sun Microsystems, who has warned of the accelerating pace of technological change leading to dire results for mankind -- up to and including the possible destruction of the human race in a generation.

    Exeunt Omnes
    <!-- BREAK -->
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    In seeking the meaning of the bees, perhaps we can take solace in our culture's great exit lines.

    Take your pick:

    "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past," F. Scott Fitzgerald reminds us at the end of his masterpiece, "The Great Gatsby."

    The movie "Shane" ends: "Pa's got things for you to do, and Mother wants you. I know she does. Shane. Shane! Come back! 'Bye, Shane."

    In the 1954 film "Hondo," the final words are "Yup. The end of a way of life. Too bad. It's a good way. Wagons forward! Yo!"

    "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." -- "The Diary of Anne Frank."

    "God help us in the future." -- "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

    "Every exit is an entrance somewhere else." -- the Player in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead."

    "Good. For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble." -- "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

    Find Washington Post science, politics and opinion coverage of the growing threat from global warming.

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  • HenryN
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    The Case of the Empty Hives

    Erik Stokstad

    <CENTER>Honey bees worldwide are abandoning their hives, and scientists aren't sure whether to blame pathogens, pesticides, or the artificial diets fed to the bees. It's not even clear if the phenomenon is new

    <TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top> </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>SOURCE: BEE ALERT TECHNOLOGIES
    David Hackenberg was the first beekeeper to draw attention to what is now one of the hottest problems in agriculture: a devastating collapse of honey bee colonies. Last October, while inspecting 400 of his company's hives in Florida, he noticed that 368 were almost empty, despite having been healthy just 3 weeks earlier. Gone were the swarming worker bees; instead, the eerily quiet hives housed just the queen bee and many doomed brood. All told, Hackenberg has lost 85% of his 3000 hives--and $450,000 of income. Although beekeepers are used to abandoned hives and bee die-offs, the extent was far worse than Hackenberg had ever experienced--and he has tended bees for more than 4 decades. "It's probably the most stressful year of my life," he says.

    Alarmed, Hackenberg contacted Diana Cox-Foster, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in State College. Soon she and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the state apiarist, heard of similar problems from beekeepers across the country. By January, the two had established a network of researchers from Florida to Montana to solve the puzzle of what they're calling colony collapse disorder (CCD). "It's a science-fiction scenario come to life," says entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
    Last year, Berenbaum led a National Research Council panel that warned of a looming pollination crisis if honey bees and other pollinators continue to decline in number (Science, 20 October 2006, p. 397). Some scientists now fear that the emergence of CCD will tip the balance, forcing many beekeepers out of business and raising costs for farmers who already rent hives because of a lack of natural pollinators. "We may be near the point when there are not enough bees," says Danny Weaver, a queen breeder with B. Weaver Apiaries in Navasota, Texas.
    At a recent meeting to devise a research strategy on CCD, scientists debated whether known bee killers, including pesticides, the varroa mite, viruses, and bacteria, were responsible. Others suspect a novel pathogen, and several top virologists are analyzing samples from afflicted hives at a breakneck pace. Researchers have even irradiated honeycombs to determine whether an infectious agent explains the disorder. Yet some blame the collapses on better understood problems, such as spells of bad weather that leave bees hungry. Or perhaps industrial-scale beekeeping--in which hundreds of thousands of hives are trucked around the country and pumped up with sugar syrups to boost their numbers--has made colonies more vulnerable.
    Little consensus about the cause of CCD emerged at the meeting, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Beltsville, Maryland, convened. It could be a variety of factors, notes Jeffery Pettis of the USDA bee lab in Beltsville, Maryland: "At this point, we're proceeding not knowing which causes might be more important." In fact, given that there are so few data on the health of domesticated honey bees--and even fewer on wild populations--many scientists aren't even convinced yet that what's going on is really a new phenomenon.
    In decline
    Honey bees are indispensable farmhands, pollinating some 95 kinds of fruits and vegetables grown in the United States. An estimate by Cornell University researchers in 2000 placed the value of the insects' services at $14.6 billion in extra yield and improved crop quality. Yet honey bees, like other pollinators, have been in trouble for a while. The number of U.S. honey bee colonies fell from 5 million in 1940 to 2 million in 1989, a decline largely attributed to economic shifts in farming.
    For the last 20 years, the biggest issue for beekeepers has been the varroa mite, first noticed in the United States in 1987. Once infected, an untreated hive can be totally wiped out in a few months. "Varroa mites are public enemy number one for bees," says Pettis. The mites have nearly eliminated feral colonies of honey bees, which used to pollinate many vegetable crops. Many farmers must now rent bees for pollination, which has contributed to the growth of large-scale beekeeping; since the late 1980s, the number of colonies has expanded by 25% to 2.5 million.
    <TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top> D?j? vu? Beekeepers across the country have reported colony collapses. A mysterious syndrome, called disappearing disease, struck similarly in the 1970s. SOURCE: WILLIAM WILSON AND DIANA MENAPACE, AMERICAN BEE JOURNAL, MARCH 1979
    But now CCD threatens to erase that small comeback--and with lightning speed. Although bees occasionally abandon their hives if disturbed, the demographics of these recent collapses are odd. The queen usually remains, surrounded by untended brood. And other insects, such as wax moths or small hive beetles, don't rob the abandoned hives of honey or nectar, suggesting some sort of contamination. "It's bizarre," says Berenbaum.

    Puzzling sudden losses of bees have happened before. In 2004, beekeepers had trouble with struggling hives sent to California for pollinating almond trees. And in the 1960s and '70s, before the arrival of mites, beekeepers around the country reported disappearing bees. "It sounds for all the world like what happened last year," says Eric Mussen of the University of California, Davis. Even an article in a bee journal from 1897--long before synthetic pesticides--describes healthy hives collapsing within a week, with the queen still there.
    <TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top> Scrutinized. Scientists are probing the enigmatic disappearance of worker bees, with brood and queen left behind (right, bottom). Parasitic mites (right, top) could be a factor. CREDITS (TOP TO BOTTOM): AP; DENNIS VANENGELSDORP
    Severe bee losses do appear to be a widespread problem (see map, above). Some 29% of 577 beekeepers across the country reported CCD and losses of up to 75% of their colonies in the last 16 months, according to a survey run by Bee Alert Technology in Missoula, Montana. Losses range from 35% to 100% of hives in each operation. Other countries are also having problems with rapid losses of wild and domesticated honey bees. In Europe, beekeepers from Spain to near the Arctic Circle are reporting deaths or disappearances of their insects, but the symptoms aren't exactly the same as in the United States.

    Still, honey bee researcher Nicholas Calderone of Cornell University says it's not clear that these collapses are something other than normal losses. "We're getting a lot of reports of CCD that are not narrowly defined," says entomologist Robert Danka of the USDA bee lab in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
    Rogues' gallery
    Assuming that something new is occurring, researchers since January have investigated the usual suspects, including pesticides and other environmental chemicals. The main focus of Cox-Foster's working group is on nicotine-based compounds called neonicotinoids, which were first introduced as pesticides in 1992. One idea is that low doses interfere with a bee's ability to navigate back to the hive. And lab studies have shown that at least one such compound, imidacloprid, can kill bees at high doses.
    There are few data that imidacloprid harms bees in fields, however. And other lines of evidence argue against blaming these pesticides. In 1999, France banned imidacloprid after beekeepers complained that it was causing up to 40% of their colonies to die. Yet the colonies don't seem to be doing much better now, notes Yves Le Conte of the Laboratoire Biologie et Protection de L'Abeille, INRA, in Avignon, France.
    And in the United States, there has been no spike in imidacloprid usage that might account for the recent colony collapse. "Pesticides can't be an explanation for why organic beekeepers are losing their colonies," Berenbaum says. The CCD working group has nevertheless sent samples of wax, honey, and pollen from hives to be tested by USDA food-testing labs for more than 200 chemicals, including fungicides, pesticides, and their metabolites.
    To assess whether pathogens explain CCD, Cox-Foster and her colleagues have collected samples from Pennsylvania of bees remaining in collapsed hives, as well as bees from nearby hives that were healthy or declining. USDA researchers also went to California to get bees from afflicted hives; all told, members of the working group have begun to examine samples from more than 200 hives.
    At the meeting, Cox-Foster presented some initial results. "We were shocked by the huge number of pathogens present in each adult bee," she says. The highly diverse array of teeming pathogens included bacteria that cause a condition known as American foul-brood, which turns bees gooey and smelly, a fungus that causes a disease called chalkbrood that turns the insects into white mummies, and four kinds of viruses.
    Some researchers suspect that an infectious agent may be spreading between hives via the wax combs and other equipment used by beekeepers. In February, Pettis and his colleagues took combs from CCD-affected colonies in Florida and gamma-irradiated or fumigated some of them before inserting the combs into hives with mite-free bees imported from Australia. Six weeks later, the scientists counted the number of missing brood cells as a measure of colony health. Because the hives with the irradiated combs had fewer missing brood than ones receiving untreated combs had, Pettis suspects pathogens as a possible cause of CCD.
    Adding to suspicions that one or more new pathogens are behind CCD are the results from a team led by Ian Lipkin of the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University, which has been doing high-throughput DNA sequencing of bulk bee samples from strong, weak, and recovering colonies. The bees from CCD-afflicted colonies have bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites that don't match any known bee pathogens and are not in the healthy colonies, Lipkin says. Cox-Foster suggests that the discovery of so many kinds of pathogens in the collapsed colonies indicates that the bees in them, for whatever reason, have suppressed immune systems.
    Yet contradictory results have just come in from bee researcher Jerry Bromenshenk of the University of Montana, Missoula, and Bee Alert Technology and his colleagues. In December, they collected samples from hives in Florida. Preliminary analysis by researchers at the U.S. Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland found similar viral burdens in healthy, failing, and collapsed hives. "It doesn't seem to fit the idea of a suppressed immune system," Bromenshenk says.
    Perhaps the most obvious suspect for CCD, the varroa mite, was also a matter of debate at the Maryland meeting. Mites don't seem to be the main problem, at least in California, says Pettis, because the weak colonies on average didn't have more mites than the strong colonies had. But others argued that mites shouldn't be ruled out yet. Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, cautions that even if beekeepers eliminate a mite infestation, weakened colonies may be set to collapse later.
    Dangerous diet?
    Modern beekeeping itself, some suggest, puts the insects at risk. In the past 2 decades, as the United States started importing cheap honey from abroad, large beekeeping operations began to make more of their income from renting hives to farmers. California's almond growers, for example, pay a premium rate for pollination.
    For bees, that means annual trips to California's central valley, where spring starts early and can be cold and damp. In October and November, more than 1.2 million colonies are trucked into California from all across the country and put into holding yards. Hives are normally inactive during this time of year. But the colonies need to be jam-packed with bees when placed into the flowering almond groves in February, so beekeepers feed them a high-fructose sugar syrup. "They are trying to totally reset the natural cycle of bees," says Marion Ellis of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. "It's throwing the bees' rhythms out of whack."
    The syrupy diet may impair the bees' health, putting them on the verge of a colony collapse. "We can't raise feedlot bees," Ellis says. Pettis doesn't think the syrup is to blame but agrees that no one has hit upon a perfect nutritional formula yet. Last fall, USDA researchers compared two commercial syrups and an experimental one, all designed to stimulate larger increases in bee colonies for almond pollination. None of the diets did the trick, but the experiment did confirm that bee numbers decreased if the insects weren't fed any supplements.
    Contaminants in such syrups have also been an issue, Mussen notes. Last summer, beekeepers in California noticed that their syrup smelled and tasted wrong. Lab tests revealed that it had high levels of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a compound that can be toxic to bees. But Hackenberg, who sells supplements, doubts that HMF was the problem. Bees will eat HMF-laced syrup, but last fall they weren't taking in any syrup or pollen supplements at all. "They just wouldn't eat the stuff," he says.
    On the road again
    Ellis and others suspect that the increased trucking of hives may also cause problems for bees. This concern is in part related to nutrition too; whereas bees in Nebraska, for example, used to spend winters in Texas with excellent forage, now they head for California. An abnormally dry season there means fewer wildflowers and less nectar, which weakens the colonies. Mussen wonders whether that caused the problems for hives in California earlier this year. "As soon as they were taken off the almonds, they started going downhill," Mussen recalls. "They were not big, fat bees; they looked malnourished."
    <TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top> Outbreak? The large concentration of hives waiting to be placed in California almond groves could allow diseases to spread. CREDIT: RANDY PENCH/MCT/LANDOV
    Ellis speculates that the physical movement of hives from state to state disturbs the colonies. And placing vast numbers of colonies in one part of California raises the risk of spreading diseases, he says. Mussen agrees on the latter possibility but points out that hives have been trucked around for many years, making that an unlikely explanation for the recent spurt of colony collapses.

    The working group is testing the role of shipping using colonies from three large beekeeping operations. Two, including Hackenberg's, were hit by CCD, and one wasn't. In the experiment, 140 hives are staying in one place for honey production, while another 140 are being moved five times for various pollination jobs. At each point, bees will be sampled and sent to PSU and USDA for pathogen analysis.
    Researchers at the Beltsville meeting agreed that the immediate top priority is better surveillance to establish the true incidence of colony collapse. They called for a $2 million survey of bee health by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which the agency had proposed last year but was not funded. Ultimately, researchers want to be able to predict and then prevent CCD. "We need practical bioassays for beekeepers--and to be able to tell them what to do in response," says vanEngelsdorp.
    Despite the recent colony collapses, almond growers expect a bumper crop this year, says Marsha Venable of the Almond Board of California. But they've had to raise their payments for renting hives from $50 a colony a few years ago to $120 this spring. And with another 40,000 hectares of young almond trees that will need pollination in the next few years, the price will only go higher if the riddle of the abandoned hives isn't solved. Beekeepers, Pettis says, "aren't going to meet the demand without something changing." Indeed, Hackenberg, who has spent the past months trying to rebuild his colonies, worries that another year like this one will put him out of business: "This is do or die."

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  • Snowy Owl
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    Thank you Fretti to have found this, it is relevant and might get some more feedback and induce rap?d change.

    Again thanks.


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  • fretti
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    I found this to be incredibly interesting. Perhaps this helps to identify the problem and can be part of the solution!

    No ORGANIC Bee losses
    <!-- DATE -->
    2007 05 06

    Received from Lancifer |
    <!--ARTICLE BODY---><TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD>I am quite involved with many alternative agriculture
    groups, and I received this email from a trusted might want to check it out for your news

    "Sharon Labchuk is a longtime environmental activist and part-time organic beekeeper from Prince Edward Island. She has twice run for a seat in Ottawa's House of Commons, making strong showings around 5% for Canada's fledgling Green Party. She is also leader of the provincial wing of her party. In a widely circulated email, she wrote:

    I'm on an organic beekeeping list of about 1,000 people, mostly Americans, and no one in the organic beekeeping world, including commercial beekeepers, is reporting colony collapse on this list. The problem with the big commercial guys is that they put pesticides in their hives to fumigate for varroa mites, and they feed antibiotics to the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make more money with pollination services, which stresses the colonies.

    Her email recommends a visit to the Bush Bees Web site at
    Here, Michael Bush felt compelled to put a message to the beekeeping world right on the top page:

    Most of us beekeepers are fighting with the Varroa mites. I'm happy to say my biggest problems are things like trying to get nucs through the winter and coming up with hives that won't hurt my back from lifting or better ways to feed the bees.

    This change from fighting the mites is mostly because I've gone to natural sized cells. In case you weren't aware, and I wasn't for a long time, the foundation in common usage results in much larger bees than what you would find in a natural hive. I've measured sections of natural worker brood comb that are 4.6mm in diameter. What most people use for worker brood is foundation that is 5.4mm in diameter. If you translate that into three dimensions instead of one, it produces a bee that is about half as large again as is natural. By letting the bees build natural sized cells, I have virtually eliminated my Varroa and Tracheal mite problems. One cause of this is shorter capping times by one day, and shorter post-capping times by one day. This means less Varroa get into the cells, and less Varroa reproduce in the cells. [Comment: Which eliminates the need to put pesticides in hives to fumigate for varroa mites and the need to feed antibiotics to the bees. See above.]

    Who should be surprised that the major media reports forget to tell us that the dying bees are actually hyper-bred varieties that we coax into a larger than normal body size? It sounds just like the beef industry. And, have we here a solution to the vanishing bee problem? Is it one that the CCD Working Group, or indeed, the scientific world at large, will support? Will media coverage affect government action in dealing with this issue?

    These are important questions to ask. It is not an uncommonly held opinion that, although this new pattern of bee colony collapse seems to have struck from out of the blue (which suggests a triggering agent), it is likely that some biological limit in the bees has been crossed. There is no shortage of evidence that we have been fast approaching this limit for some time.

    We've been pushing them too hard, Dr. Peter Kevan, an associate professor of environmental biology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, told the CBC. And we're starving them out by feeding them artificially and moving them great distances. Given the stress commercial bees are under, Kevan suggests CCD might be caused by parasitic mites, or long cold winters, or long wet springs, or pesticides, or genetically modified crops. Maybe it's all of the above...

    I am quite involved with many alternative agriculturegroups, and I received this email from a might want to check it out for your newssection...

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  • Susie
    Honeybee die-off threatens food supply

    Honeybee die-off threatens food supply

    By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer
    Wed May 2, 6:40 PM ET

    BELTSVILLE, Md. - Unless someone or something stops it soon, the mysterious killer that is wiping out many of the nation's honeybees could have a devastating effect on America's dinner plate, perhaps even reducing us to a glorified bread-and-water diet.

    Honeybees don't just make honey; they pollinate more than 90 of the tastiest flowering crops we have. Among them: apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash and cucumbers. And lots of the really sweet and tart stuff, too, including citrus fruit, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and other melons.

    In fact, about one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Even cattle, which feed on alfalfa, depend on bees. So if the collapse worsens, we could end up being "stuck with grains and water," said Kevin Hackett, the national program leader for USDA's bee and pollination program.

    "This is the biggest general threat to our food supply," Hackett said.

    While not all scientists foresee a food crisis, noting that large-scale bee die-offs have happened before, this one seems particularly baffling and alarming.

    U.S. beekeepers in the past few months have lost one-quarter of their colonies ? or about five times the normal winter losses ? because of what scientists have dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder. The problem started in November and seems to have spread to 27 states, with similar collapses reported in Brazil, Canada and parts of Europe.

    Scientists are struggling to figure out what is killing the honeybees, and early results of a key study this week point to some kind of disease or parasite.

    Even before this disorder struck, America's honeybees were in trouble. Their numbers were steadily shrinking, because their genes do not equip them to fight poisons and disease very well, and because their gregarious nature exposes them to ailments that afflict thousands of their close cousins.

    "Quite frankly, the question is whether the bees can weather this perfect storm," Hackett said. "Do they have the resilience to bounce back? We'll know probably by the end of the summer."

    Experts from Brazil and Europe have joined in the detective work at USDA's bee lab in suburban Washington. In recent weeks, Hackett briefed Vice President Cheney's office on the problem. Congress has held hearings on the matter.

    "This crisis threatens to wipe out production of crops dependent on bees for pollination," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a statement.

    A congressional study said honeybees add about $15 billion a year in value to our food supply.

    Of the 17,000 species of bees that scientists know about, "honeybees are, for many reasons, the pollinator of choice for most North American crops," a National Academy of Sciences study said last year. They pollinate many types of plants, repeatedly visit the same plant, and recruit other honeybees to visit, too.

    Pulitzer Prize-winning insect biologist E.O. Wilson of Harvard said the honeybee is nature's "workhorse ? and we took it for granted."

    "We've **** our own future on a thread," Wilson, author of the book "The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth," told The Associated Press on Monday.

    Beginning this past fall, beekeepers would open up their hives and find no workers, just newborn bees and the queen. Unlike past bee die-offs, where dead bees would be found near the hive, this time they just disappeared. The die-off takes just one to three weeks.

    USDA's top bee scientist, Jeff Pettis, who is coordinating the detective work on this die-off, has more suspected causes than time, people and money to look into them.

    The top suspects are a parasite, an unknown virus, some kind of bacteria, pesticides, or a one-two combination of the top four, with one weakening the honeybee and the second killing it.

    A quick experiment with some of the devastated hives makes pesticides seem less likely. In the recent experiment, Pettis and colleagues irradiated some hard-hit hives and reintroduced new bee colonies. More bees thrived in the irradiated hives than in the non-irradiated ones, pointing toward some kind of disease or parasite that was killed by radiation.

    The parasite hypothesis has history and some new findings to give it a boost: A mite practically wiped out the wild honeybee in the U.S. in the 1990s. And another new one-celled parasitic fungus was found last week in a tiny sample of dead bees by University of California San Francisco molecular biologist Joe DeRisi, who isolated the human SARS virus.

    However, Pettis and others said while the parasite nosema ceranae may be a factor, it cannot be the sole cause. The fungus has been seen before, sometimes in colonies that were healthy.

    Recently, scientists have begun to wonder if mankind is too dependent on honeybees. The scientific warning signs came in two reports last October.

    First, the National Academy of Sciences said pollinators, especially America's honeybee, were under threat of collapse because of a variety of factors. Captive colonies in the United States shrank from 5.9 million in 1947 to 2.4 million in 2005.

    Then, scientists finished mapping the honeybee genome and found that the insect did not have the normal complement of genes that take poisons out of their systems or many immune-disease-fighting genes. A fruitfly or a mosquito has twice the number of genes to fight toxins, University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum.

    What the genome mapping revealed was "that honeybees may be peculiarly vulnerable to disease and toxins," Berenbaum said.

    University of Montana bee expert Jerry Bromenshenk has surveyed more than 500 beekeepers and found that 38 percent of them had losses of 75 percent or more. A few weeks back, Bromenshenk was visiting California beekeepers and saw a hive that was thriving. Two days later, it had completely collapsed.

    Yet Bromenshenk said, "I'm not ready to panic yet." He said he doesn't think a food crisis is looming.

    Even though experts this year gave what's happening a new name and think this is a new type of die-off, it may have happened before.

    Bromenshenk said cited die-offs in the 1960s and 1970s that sound somewhat the same. There were reports of something like this in the United States in spots in 2004, Pettis said. And Germany had something similar in 2004, said Peter Neumann, co-chairman of a 17-country European research group studying the problem.

    "The problem is that everyone wants a simple answer," Pettis said. "And it may not be a simple answer."


    On the Net:

    Colony Collapse Disorder Web page by the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium:

     Apiary Sites 1.5 Basic Biology and Management of the Japanese Hornfaced Bee Pollination Contracts – 5.4 Moving Bees – 5.3 Pollination – 5.2 Bees and Bears – 4.10 Bee Diseases and their Control – 4.9 IPM for Beekeepers – 4.8 Varroa Mites – 4.7 Small Hive Beetle – 4.6 Wax Moth – 4.5 Stinging Insect … Continue reading "MAAREC Fact Sheets"

    National Academy of Sciences study on pollinators:

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  • Treyfish
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    Extra to add to Hawkeyes report #85 above. Communicated by:
    ProMED-mail Rapporteur Joseph P. Dudley, Ph.D

    [_Nosema_ is not a fungus as claimed in this report, but a
    spore-forming protozoan. _N. apis_ is widely known in Europe as a
    pathogen of the honey bee _Apis mellifera_. _N. ceranae_ was
    originally discovered in the Asian bee _A. cerana_ but was recently
    also found in _A. mellifera_ (see link below).

    _Iflavirus_ is a genus of invertebrate viruses only recently approved
    by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.

    Varroa mite (_Varroa jacobsoni_) is an ectoparasite of _Apis_ spp.
    and is widespread in the US, Europe and Asia. It has also been found
    on some other flower-feeding insects which may serve as vectors.

    Obviously, this is only a very 1st step towards solving the question
    of the cause of the bee die-off. The likelihood of a multifactorial
    disease is pointed out, and this will require extensive studies. In
    the meantime, the loss of effective pollinators poses an economic
    threat to horticultural industries such as, for example, stone fruit
    production. However, there is no immediate threat of loss of trees.

    Pictures: _Nosema_ spores at
    Varroa mite on bee larva at

    Information on _N. ceranae_ at
    Information on nosemosis of honey bees at
    Description of the genus _Iflavirus_ at
    Information on varroa mite at
    Additional news stories at
    <,1249,660214481,00.html> and
    - Mod.DHA]

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  • hawkeye
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    UCSF Sleuths Identify Suspects in Mystery of Vanishing Honeybees

    UCSF scientists have identified two suspects in the massive die-off of half a million bee colonies in the US. Joe DeRisi, PhD, and Don Ganem, MD, both Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators at UCSF, have used a powerful combination of a "virus chip" ? a microarray with DNA samples of most known viruses and fungi ? and "shotgun" sequencing, which identifies telltale DNA from random samples of the biological sample.

    The Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland sent DeRisi samples to analyze from bees in the Central Valley of California. DeRisi and Ganem identified a parasite known to have caused massive bee losses in the last decade, making it a candidate as a culprit responsible for bee collapse in the US. The parasite is called Nosema ceranae, a so-called microsporidian fungus ? a small, single-celled parasite that mainly has been associated with affecting Asian bees, and is thought to have jumped to the Western honeybee in the last few years. The shotgun approach succeeded in this search, as the microarry does not include this species' DNA.

    The lab's search for culprits using the micorarray, however, also netted a second potential killer, a virus from the genus Iflavirus, which has been implicated in a number of problems in the bee industry.

    "The next ? and very critical ? step is to assay other failing hives around the country and the world to measure to what degree these pathogens we have identified are also associated with bee collapse elsewhere," DeRisi said. "We can't say that because the bees in Central Valley may have fallen to one or both of these pathogens that we have now proven that this is the cause throughout the United States."

    The virus chip gene-hunting technique is designed to identify a sample virus by comparing its DNA or RNA to more than 20,000 snippets of genetic material derived from all known viruses found in humans, animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. The microarry also has gene sequences from other microorganisms. The chip draws on computer chip technology, computation and bioinformatics, but in essence it is a simple 3 x 1 inch glass microscope slide. Onto the slide the scientists robotically deposit 10 to 12 different DNA sequences from all the viruses. Each sample appears as a microscopic dot, about a tenth of a millimeter in diameter ? giving it the name micoroarray. Researchers then wash fluorescently tagged DNA from a sample of interest over the slide, and wherever the two sets of nucleic acid match up, they anneal to each other. The slide is then rinsed and visualized with a scanning laser microscope. The dots that have found a match glow with fluorescent light.

    During the SARS scare in 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) turned to DeRisi for help in identifying the cause of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. His lab used the virus chip to confirm the culprit, a new form of coronavirus. Last year DeRisi and Ganem, in collaboration with scientists at the Cleveland Clinic, discovered a previously unknown human virus associated with prostate cancer.

    DeRisi is professor of biochemistry, and Ganem is professor of microbiology and immunology at UCSF.

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  • hawkeye
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    Experts may have found what's bugging the bees
    A fungus that hit hives in Europe and Asia may be partly to blame for wiping out colonies across the U.S.
    By Jia-Rui Chong and Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writers
    April 26, 2007

    A fungus that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bees across the United States, UC San Francisco researchers said Wednesday.

    Researchers have been struggling for months to explain the disorder, and the new findings provide the first solid evidence pointing to a potential cause.

    But the results are "highly preliminary" and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. "We don't want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved."

    Other researchers said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in affected hives from around the country ? as well as in some hives where bees had survived. Those researchers have also found two other fungi and half a dozen viruses in the dead bees.

    N. ceranae is "one of many pathogens" in the bees, said entomologist Diana Cox-Foster of Pennsylvania State University. "By itself, it is probably not the culprit ? but it may be one of the key players."

    Cox-Foster was one of the organizers of a meeting in Washington, D.C., on Monday and Tuesday where about 60 bee researchers gathered to discuss Colony Collapse Disorder.

    "We still haven't ruled out other factors, such as pesticides or inadequate food resources following a drought," she said. "There are lots of stresses that these bees are experiencing," and it may be a combination of factors that is responsible.

    Historically, bee losses are not unusual. Weather, pesticide exposures and infestations by pests, such as the Varroa mite, have wiped out significant numbers of colonies in the past, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s.

    But the current loss appears unprecedented. Beekeepers in 28 states, Canada and Britain have reported large losses. About a quarter of the estimated 2.4 million commercial colonies across the United States have been lost since fall, said Jerry Hayes of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Gainesville.

    "These are remarkable and dramatic losses," said Hayes, who is also president of the Apiary Inspectors of America.

    Besides producing honey, commercial beehives are used to pollinate a third of the country's agricultural crops, including apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries, strawberries and pumpkins. Ninety percent of California's almond crop is dependent on bees, and a loss of commercial hives could be devastating.

    "For the most part, they just disappeared," said Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg, who was among the first to note the losses. "The boxes were full of honey. That was the mysterious thing. Usually other bees will rob those hives out. But nothing had happened."

    Researchers now think the foraging bees are too weak to return to their hives.

    DeRisi and UCSF's Don Ganem, who normally look for the causes of human diseases, were brought into the bee search by virologist Evan W. Skowronski of the U.S. Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland.

    Dr. Charles Wick of the center had used a new system of genetic analysis to identify pathogens in ground-up bee samples from California. He found several viruses, including members of a recently identified genus called iflaviruses.

    It is not known whether these small, RNA-containing viruses, which infect the Varroa mite, are pathogenic to bees.

    Skowronski forwarded the samples to DeRisi, who also found evidence of the viruses, along with genetic material from N. ceranae.

    "There was a lot of stuff from Nosema, about 25% of the total," Skowronski said. "That meant there was more than there was bee RNA. That leads me to believe that the bee died from that particular pathogen."

    If N. ceranae does play a role in Colony Collapse Disorder, there may be some hope for beekeepers.

    A closely related parasite called Nosema apis, which also affects bees, can be controlled by the antibiotic fumagillin, and there is some evidence that it will work on N. ceranae as well.

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  • Johnny Yuma
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    Not just me

    No bees? Not just strange, but scary
    Dave Lindorff

    is an investigative journalist living in Maple Glen

    Where are the bees?

    As an unwilling and disgruntled suburbanite, I take great pride in my dandelion crop. Over the decade that I have owned my 2.3-acre lot in Maple Glen, just north of Philadelphia, I have watched as the dandelion population in my lawn has grown year on year.

    One reason I've enjoyed the display is that I know these bright-yellow-flowered plants, which bloom early and continue blooming well into fall, are popular with honeybees. Given all the problems the bees have been having with insecticides, destruction of natural habitat, and the like, I'm happy to give them some help.

    I remember that when I was a kid growing up in rural Connecticut, getting stung by a honeybee was almost a weekly occurrence that went along with going barefoot in the lawn. (My parents liked dandelions, too.)

    Today, though, you could walk all day barefoot around my yard and never get stung. There's not a honeybee to be seen.

    I walked two miles recently around the neighborhood, past plenty of dandelions, including through a feral field full of them, and didn't see a single bee. Not one. This is particularly strange because in the first warm days of spring, the hives are usually out in full force trying to replenish supplies after a long winter and in anticipation of a big period of egg-laying and hatching of larvae.

    And it's not just dandelions.

    Behind my house is a wild cherry tree. A few days ago, it was in full bloom. Ordinarily, this would be an occasion for a true bee fiesta. The tree at this time in prior years was virtually a cloud of buzzing insects, all zipping from flower to flower.

    This year, there was not a bee to be seen on the entire tree.

    This is beyond strange. It's downright scary.

    When you consider that perhaps half the plants in nature depend upon pollinators like bees to reproduce, you have to wonder what a future without bees holds - not just for the animals that live on those plants, but for human beings.

    And it's not just honeybees that are missing. Honeybees, after all, are immigrants from Europe, and the Americas survived quite nicely without them before their arrival with the colonists. But the native bees - ground bees and bumblebees, for example - are gone, too. The only bees I've seen since the spring began are wood bees - large, clumsy-looking, bumblebee-like creatures that bore neat circular holes into the wood of the house and lay their eggs in solitary nests. Thank heavens for them, or there wouldn't be a bee on my property.

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  • Johnny Yuma
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    All of my fruit trees are in full bloom and there is not a bee in sight.

    Silent Spring has arrived.

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  • Blue
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    It does seem to be getting more ominous.

    Thanks for keeping us informed.

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  • Susie
    Re: Mystery killer silencing honeybees

    I don't have any particular interest in honeybees, but it seems to me that this story is just growing.

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