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Programbo
04-26-2007, 19:01
Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons
By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO, THE NEW YORK TIMES

BELTSVILLE, Md., April 23 What is happening to the bees?

More than a quarter of the country's 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost -- tens of billions of bees, according to an estimate from the Apiary Inspectors of America, a national group that tracks beekeeping. So far, no one can say what is causing the bees to become disoriented and fail to return to their hives.

As with any great mystery, a number of theories have been posed, and many seem to researchers to be more science fiction than science. People have blamed genetically modified crops, cellular phone towers and high-voltage transmission lines for the disappearances. Or was it a secret plot by Russia or Osama bin Laden to bring down American agriculture? Or, as some blogs have asserted, the rapture of the bees, in which God recalled them to heaven? Researchers have heard it all.

The volume of theories "is totally mind-boggling," said Diana Cox-Foster, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University. With Jeffrey S. Pettis, an entomologist from the United States Department of Agriculture, Dr. Cox-Foster is leading a team of researchers who are trying to find answers to explain "colony collapse disorder," the name given for the disappearing bee syndrome.

"Clearly there is an urgency to solve this," Dr. Cox-Foster said. "We are trying to move as quickly as we can."

Dr. Cox-Foster and fellow scientists who were here at a two-day meeting to discuss early findings and future plans with government officials have been focusing on the most likely suspects: a virus, a fungus or a pesticide.

About 60 researchers from North America sifted the possibilities at the meeting. Some expressed concern about the speed at which adult bees are disappearing from their hives; some colonies have collapsed in as little as two days. Others noted that countries in Europe, as well as Guatemala and parts of Brazil, are also struggling for answers.

"There are losses around the world that may or not be linked," Dr. Pettis said.

The investigation is now entering a critical phase. The researchers have collected samples in several states and have begun doing bee autopsies and genetic analysis.

So far, known enemies of the bee world, like the varroa mite, on their own at least, do not appear to be responsible for the unusually high losses.

Genetic testing at Columbia University has revealed the presence of multiple microorganisms in bees from hives or colonies that are in decline, suggesting that something is weakening their immune system. The researchers have found some fungi in the affected bees that are found in humans whose immune systems have been suppressed by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or cancer.

"That is extremely unusual," Dr. Cox-Foster said.

Meanwhile, samples were sent to an Agriculture Department laboratory in North Carolina this month to screen for 117 chemicals. Particular suspicion falls on a pesticide that France banned out of concern that it may have been decimating bee colonies. Concern has also mounted among public officials.

"There are so many of our crops that require pollinators," said Representative Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat whose district includes that state's central agricultural valley, and who presided last month at a Congressional hearing on the bee issue. "We need an urgent call to arms to try to ascertain what is really going on here with the bees, and bring as much science as we possibly can to bear on the problem."

So far, colony collapse disorder has been found in 27 states, according to Bee Alert Technology Inc., a company monitoring the problem. A recent survey of 13 states by the Apiary Inspectors of America showed that 26 percent of beekeepers had lost half of their bee colonies between September and March.

Honeybees are arguably the insects that are most important to the human food chain. They are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts. The number of bee colonies has been declining since the 1940s, even as the crops that rely on them, such as California almonds, have grown. In October, at about the time that beekeepers were experiencing huge bee losses, a study by the National Academy of Sciences questioned whether American agriculture was relying too heavily on one type of pollinator, the honeybee.

Bee colonies have been under stress in recent years as more beekeepers have resorted to crisscrossing the country with 18-wheel trucks full of bees in search of pollination work. These bees may suffer from a diet that includes artificial supplements, concoctions akin to energy drinks and power bars. In several states, suburban sprawl has limited the bees' natural forage areas.

So far, the researchers have discounted the possibility that poor diet alone could be responsible for the widespread losses. They have also set aside for now the possibility that the cause could be bees feeding from a commonly used genetically modified crop, Bt corn, because the symptoms typically associated with toxins, such as blood poisoning, are not showing up in the affected bees. But researchers emphasized today that feeding supplements produced from genetically modified crops, such as high-fructose corn syrup, need to be studied.

The scientists say that definitive answers for the colony collapses could be months away. But recent advances in biology and genetic sequencing are speeding the search.

Computers can decipher information from DNA and match pieces of genetic code with particular organisms. Luckily, a project to sequence some 11,000 genes of the honeybee was completed late last year at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, giving scientists a huge head start on identifying any unknown pathogens in the bee tissue.

"Otherwise, we would be looking for the needle in the haystack," Dr. Cox-Foster said.

aaroniguana
04-26-2007, 21:57
I heard one theory that it could be cellular communications interfering with their frequency of communication with each other. Another reason to dump the cel phone. Bees do most of the pollination of crops. No bees, no food, no trees, no air, bye bye human race!

So, we may not have to wait for global warming to destroy us.

lvleph
04-27-2007, 07:49
It is too bad more people are not taking this seriously. This could be a very serious problem, but too many people are ignorant of the ecosystem we live in.

D'Artagnan
04-27-2007, 07:59
It could be that honey bees are the proverbial "canary in the coal mine". Troubling to say the least.

Photofanatic
04-27-2007, 08:51
Long time ago in a place far far away I raised honey bees. Once they swarmed and I couldn't find them. 2 years later my neighbor and I were talking about this stick leak coming from behind her siding and running down the outside of her house and the bees were drawn to it. I thought to myself, that it couldn't be my old bees but I didn't say anything to her. She showed me the area above her back door. I looked like honey, I tasted it and found it to be HONEY. I told her what it was but didn't mention my bee swarm.
I took the queen away but left her the honey.

Footslogger
04-27-2007, 09:05
Bees were never much of a problem on the trail. It was the yellow jackets/hornets you need to keep your eye on and give plenty of distance to.

'Slogger

rafe
04-27-2007, 09:14
I've encountered ground bees on a few of my recent section hikes. The last time it happened, I was setting up a stealth camp when the little bastards found me. I got several stings... and it just so happened, that time I hadn't brought any Benadryl along. Ouch.

ImkerVS
04-27-2007, 10:33
Keep bees. It's fun. It's a social service.

So far my bees are doing okay.

This latest problem is very mysterious. One day the bees just abscond. It's like you go over to see your neighbor and find the dinner table set, the tv blaring, nothing out of order, and the neighbors gone. And they never come back. And bees in the wild don't live more than a seaon or so. They're in the ER of life right now, need 2 kinds of medicine twice a year.

The beekeeping industry has a history of manipulating bees too much. Bees are forced to accept foundation wax with cell sizes larger than they would make if left on their own (manufactured sheets with cell patterns 1 - 3 mm larger than a wild bee would make), in the belief that bigger bees make more honey (this has been going on for 80 years). Big cells leave more room for the mites that parasite the drone bees in the cells.

Ah, capitalism.

Any bee living in the ground is not a honey bee. Honey bees get blamed for a lot of stuff they just don't do. Yellowjackets look a lot like honey bees.

Photofanatic
04-27-2007, 10:52
Keep bees. It's fun. It's a social service.

So far my bees are doing okay.

This latest problem is very mysterious. One day the bees just abscond. It's like you go over to see your neighbor and find the dinner table set, the tv blaring, nothing out of order, and the neighbors gone. And they never come back. And bees in the wild don't live more than a seaon or so. They're in the ER of life right now, need 2 kinds of medicine twice a year.

The beekeeping industry has a history of manipulating bees too much. Bees are forced to accept foundation wax with cell sizes larger than they would make if left on their own (manufactured sheets with cell patterns 1 - 3 mm larger than a wild bee would make), in the belief that bigger bees make more honey (this has been going on for 80 years). Big cells leave more room for the mites that parasite the drone bees in the cells.

Ah, capitalism.

Any bee living in the ground is not a honey bee. Honey bees get blamed for a lot of stuff they just don't do. Yellowjackets look a lot like honey bees.

I'm with you on keeping bees. It is fun but I don't have the use for so much honey anymore.
I have had my bees swarm on more than one occasion. Never could figure what set them off. I kept my hives immaculately clean.
I took pictures of the outside of my neighbors house with the honey running between the siding but didn't stay long once they took off the siding and began breaking down the hive. It was interesting to see how tiny the cells were and the haphazard the design was behind the siding. Any tiny space was free game to add on.
If your bees have swarmed and you are able to find them all you need to get is the queen and bring it back the others will follow.

NativePennsylvanian
04-27-2007, 13:51
Good because I hate bees, bad because I love honey.

Yahtzee
04-27-2007, 14:12
Albert Einstein once said without bees man would die off in four years. They pollinate damn near everything. If it turns out cell phone towers are messing with bees we are going to have some interesting choices to make.

BTW, love how we hikers make the "beware of bees" signs for each other and leave them for the next hiker. So primitive but so useful.

If stung, smack and hike on. And continue smacking. Endorphins and bloodflow will make it all better.

weary
04-27-2007, 14:30
Keep bees. It's fun. It's a social service.

So far my bees are doing okay.

This latest problem is very mysterious. One day the bees just abscond. It's like you go over to see your neighbor and find the dinner table set, the tv blaring, nothing out of order, and the neighbors gone. And they never come back. And bees in the wild don't live more than a seaon or so. They're in the ER of life right now, need 2 kinds of medicine twice a year.

The beekeeping industry has a history of manipulating bees too much. Bees are forced to accept foundation wax with cell sizes larger than they would make if left on their own (manufactured sheets with cell patterns 1 - 3 mm larger than a wild bee would make), in the belief that bigger bees make more honey (this has been going on for 80 years). Big cells leave more room for the mites that parasite the drone bees in the cells.

Ah, capitalism.

Any bee living in the ground is not a honey bee. Honey bees get blamed for a lot of stuff they just don't do. Yellowjackets look a lot like honey bees.
I used to keep three or four hives -- mostly as a hobby, because the early morning fogs on the coast of Maine preclude the production of much honey. They did keep my cukes, squash and tomatoes pollinated.

Then 20 yeasrs ago a guy built a house next door, had a big garden, and persisted in dusting his corn with powdered Sevin to kill ear worms. Sevin is deadly to bees. Each time he dusted his corn great piles of bees built up in front of my hives. Eventually, the hives got too weak to survive the winters.

He was an old guy -- almost 70 -- and I hated to disturb him with my complaints, so I gave up beekeeping. I still miss them.

Weary

peanuts
04-27-2007, 14:50
well, bees, hornets, yellow jackets = death!!! for me. highly allergic!

ImkerVS
04-27-2007, 15:58
L. Wolfe and others -

HOW TO FIND BEES OUT IN THE WILD.

Get a cigar box. Get a shallow saucer. Put sugar water (2 parts sugar, 1 part water) in the saucer, or honey. Put the saucer in the box.

Put the cigar box out where you saw at least one bee recently. Open the box.

Pretty soon a bee will land on the box, find the sugar water. Wait. That bee will go tell 25 other bees. Pretty soon they will be coming and going from the box. Watch which way they go.

When 3 or 4 are in the box, close it up and walk 50 yards in the direction they came from. Put the box down. Open it up.

Pretty soon they will be coming and going like before. Repeat the process, closing the box, walking in the direction they were coming from.

This will lead you directly to where the bees are.

(My dad read this in a Foxfire book when I was in high school. He did it. He found a bee tree. This led him to become a beekeeper, which is a lot easier than cutting down a bee tree)

Also: Once the bees left your yard, they were no longer your legal responsibility. The law recognizes them as "wild".

Rhino-lfl
04-29-2007, 15:54
Arrrhhhhhhh!!!!!!

Crazy Larry #1
04-29-2007, 15:59
Arrrhhhhhhh!!!!!!
that's one of them honey bee killers, i know because i saw them on discovery...................