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 user 2007-02-12 at 11:33:00 am Views: 48
  • #17546

    Mystery Illness Kills Thousands of U.S. Honeybees
    COLLEGE, Pa. (Feb. 07) – A mysterious illness is killing tens of
    thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey
    production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need
    bees for pollination.Researchers are scrambling to find the cause of
    the ailment, called Colony Collapse Disorder.

    of unusual colony deaths have come from at least 22 states. Some
    affected commercial beekeepers – who often keep thousands of colonies -
    have reported losing more than 50 percent of their bees. A colony can
    have roughly 20,000 bees in the winter, and up to 60,000 in the
    summer.”We have seen a lot of things happen in 40 years, but this is
    the epitome of it all,” Dave Hackenberg, of Lewisburg-based Hackenberg
    Apiaries, said by phone from Fort Meade, Fla., where he was working
    with his bees.The country’s bee population had already been shocked in
    recent years by a tiny, parasitic bug called the varroa mite, which has
    destroyed more than half of some beekeepers’ hives and devastated most
    wild honeybee populations.Along with being producers of honey,
    commercial bee colonies are important to agriculture as pollinators,
    along with some birds, bats and other insects. A recent report by the
    National Research Council noted that in order to bear fruit,
    three-quarters of all flowering plants – including most food crops and
    some that provide fiber, drugs and fuel – rely on pollinators for
    fertilization.Hackenberg, 58, was first to report Colony Collapse
    Disorder to bee researchers at Penn State University. He notified them
    in November when he was down to about 1,000 colonies – after having
    started the fall with 2,900.”We are going to take bees we got and make
    more bees … but it’s costly,” he said. “We are talking about major
    bucks. You can only take so many blows so many times.”One beekeeper who
    traveled with two truckloads of bees to California to help pollinate
    almond trees found nearly all of his bees dead upon arrival, said
    Dennis vanEnglesdorp, acting state apiarist for the Pennsylvania
    Department of Agriculture.”I would characterize it as serious,” said
    Daniel Weaver, president of the American Beekeeping Federation.
    “Whether it threatens the apiculture industry in the United States or
    not, that’s up in the air.”Scientists at Penn State, the University of
    Montana and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are among the quickly
    growing group of researchers and industry officials trying to solve the

    Among the clues being assembled by researchers:
    the bodies of dead bees often are littered around a hive, sometimes
    carried out of the hive by worker bees, no bee remains are typically
    found around colonies struck by the mystery ailment. Scientists assume
    these bees have flown away from the hive before dying.From the outside,
    a stricken colony may appear normal, with bees leaving and entering.
    But when beekeepers look inside the hive box, they find few mature bees
    taking care of the younger, developing bees.Normally, a weakened bee
    colony would be immediately overrun by bees from other colonies or by
    pests going after the hive’s honey. That’s not the case with the
    stricken colonies, which might not be touched for at least two weeks,
    said Diana Cox-Foster, a Penn State entomology professor investigating
    the problem.”That is a real abnormality,” Hackenberg said.Cox-Foster
    said an analysis of dissected bees turned up an alarmingly high number
    of foreign fungi, bacteria and other organisms and weakened immune
    systems.Researchers are also looking into the effect pesticides might
    be having on bees.In the meantime, beekeepers are wondering if bee
    deaths over the last couple of years that had been blamed on mites or
    poor management might actually have resulted from the mystery
    ailment.”Now people think that they may have had this three or four
    years,” vanEnglesdorp said.