October 8, 2010

Researchers Find Added Threats To Bees

Researchers have found two new threats in the mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD) that has affected honey bee populations across the country.

The countrywide threat to bees has caused much concern because the insects play an important role in the pollination of crops.

Researchers collected samples from beehives affected with the disorder and found the presence of a virus and a fungus. The two pathogens were not found in colonies not affected by CCD, the researchers said.

"We truly don't know if these two pathogens cause CCD or whether the colonies with CCD are more likely to succumb to these two pathogens," Jerry J. Bromenshenk of the University of Montana said in a statement.

Previous studies looked for possible viruses in bee colonies as well as the potential harm from pesticides, but researchers have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause.

The new study found that the suspected virus is an insect iridescent virus, which is similar to one first reported in India two decades ago, and is also similar to a virus found in moths. The virus affects the abdomens of bees, and the tissues may show a bluish-green or purple hue. The fungus, Nosema ceranae, which was also found in affected colonies, can sicken bees if they ingest the spores.

"There seems to be a correlation between the presence of these two pathogens together. We envision the bee gets an infection from one or the other, and this causes the bees to become stressed, which then allows the second infection to come in and more effectively cause disease," said Robert Cramer, a pathologist at Montana State University in Bozeman.

Bee analysis took place at Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The researchers reported their findings in Wednesday's edition of the journal PLoS ONE.


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