The sudden death of bee colonies since late 2006 across North America has stumped scientists. But today, researchers may have a greater understanding of the mysterious colony collapse disorder, said a Texas Tech University biologist.
Shan Bilimoria, a professor and molecular virologist, said the bees may be taking a one-two punch from both an insect virus and a fungus, which may be causing bees to die off by the billions.
Bilimoria is part of a team of researchers searching for the cause of the collapse. Led by research professor Jerry Bromenshenk from the University of Montana in Missoula, the group also includes virologists and chemists from the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and the Instituto de Ecologica AC in Mexico.
Their study was published this week in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE.
“At this stage, the study is showing an association of death rates of the bees with the virus and fungus present,” Bilimoria said. “Our contribution to this study confirms association. But even that doesn’t prove cause and effect. Not just yet.”
The mysterious colony deaths have caused major concern with scientists since much of agriculture depends on bees to pollinate crops.
To discover what might be attacking bee colonies, the team ground up dead bees that had succumbed to colony collapse disorder. Using analytical equipment, researchers discovered through spectroscopic analysis evidence of a moth virus called insect iridescent virus (IIV) 6 and a fungal parasite called Nosema.
The insect virus is closely related to another virus that wiped out bee populations 20 years ago in India, he said. Also, unlike previous research that found the deaths may be caused by a virus with RNA, the IIV 6 contains DNA.
“Our DNA discovery puts this field in a whole new direction,” he said.
Bilimoria said Texas Tech supplied the virus material for the experiments and were tested on bees with the fungus. Though an association between exposure and death was found, scientists don’t yet know if the two pathogens cause CCD or whether CCD colonies are more likely to succumb to the two pathogens.
“To prove cause and effect, we will have to isolate the virus and fungus from bee colony, and then reinfect with same virus and fungus,” Bilimoria said.
In the next part of the research project, Bilimoria will work to isolate the virus from infected bees.
“Once we isolate and identify the virus, we will have a way of monitoring it,” he said. “It is easier to fight the problem if we know what the culprit is.”
For a copy of a frequently-asked-questions sheet, please contact John Davis.
CONTACT: Shan Bilimoria, professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-2710 ext. 287, (806) 239-7251 cell, or firstname.lastname@example.org
1 thought on “Texas Tech researcher: Bee colony collapse associated with viral, fungal infection”
Are you aware you are republishing corporate propaganda? Not to mention the conflict of interest!
“Bayer Crop Science, a subsidiary of the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG (BAYRY), has tangled with regulators and fended off lawsuits from angry beekeepers who allege that the pesticides have disoriented and ultimately killed their bees. The company has countered that, when used correctly, the pesticides pose little risk.
A cheer must have gone up at Bayer on Thursday when a front-page New York Times article, under the headline “Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery,” described how a newly released study pinpoints a different cause for the die-off: “a fungus tag-teaming with a virus.” The study, written in collaboration with Army scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center outside Baltimore, analyzed the proteins of afflicted bees using a new Army software system. The Bayer pesticides, however, go unmentioned.
What the Times article did not explore — nor did the study disclose — was the relationship between the study’s lead author, Montana bee researcher Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, and Bayer Crop Science. In recent years Bromenshenk has received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination. Indeed, before receiving the Bayer funding, Bromenshenk was lined up on the opposite side: He had signed on to serve as an expert witness for beekeepers who brought a class-action lawsuit against Bayer in 2003. He then dropped out and received the grant.
Reporter: scientist “did not volunteer” funding sources
Bromenshenk’s company, Bee Alert Technology, which is developing hand-held acoustic scanners that use sound to detect various bee ailments, will profit more from a finding that disease, and not pesticides, is harming bees. Two years ago Bromenshenk acknowledged as much to me when I was reporting on the possible neonicotinoid/CCD connection for Conde Nast Portfolio magazine, which folded before I completed my reporting.”
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