Posted by: r.m. | October 8, 2010

bees…from the US to Lebanon

“The cause of the mysterious decline of the honey bee in the United States – and elsewhere in the world – may have been found in the form of a “double whammy” infection with both a virus and a fungus.

A unique collaboration between university researchers and military scientists in the US has found that a combination of a virus and a fungus in the gut of honey bees may result in the phenomenon known as colony-collapse disorder.”

Bees are not only declining in Europe and the US. They are also declining here.

See this story on Jordanian research

and

this report on Lebanon’s agricultural meltdown

Here’s an excerpt from that report on Lebanon:

Mohamad Ajami’s 65 bee hives overlook the Litani River Valley, with Jebel el Sheikh looming in the distance and to their immediate right, one of the south’s historic landmarks, Beaufort Castle. Last year, Ajami had a bumper honey harvest, generating 650 kilos. He was optimistic that this year would be even better, purchasing extra hives and equipment in anticipation of producing one ton of honey. At $25 for a 900 gram jar, Ajami should have netted over $25,000.

 

But three months ago he started realizing all was not well. The winds had been continuously blowing from the east, dry, desert winds instead of the westerly winds that provide the right moisture and dew for flora to thrive, and for the bees to pollinate and produce nectar. Ajami also noticed that the bees were not multiplying, meaning he could not artificially swarm the bees and build up the number of colonies to have more hives.

“That was when I realized something wasn’t right,” he said. “And while the summer flowers did come there were no forager bees in the hives. Something did not encourage them to generate honey, something – beyond my understanding – that is beyond normal events.”

When it came to harvesting, Ajami’s suspicions about a poor harvest were worse than he thought.

“I only generated 50 kilos. It was not a harvest, it is solely for family consumption this year,” he said.

Ajami’s experience is not a solitary one. Beekeepers throughout Lebanon have had a bad season, with rough estimates – in lieu of official statistics – of a 50 percent decline in production from an annual average of 200 tons. For Wadih Yazbek, a beekeeper and equipment distributor in Beirut, hardware sales are down 60 to 70 percent, indicative of the overall decline in the honey sector. “Beekeepers aren’t needing the extra hives and secondly, with not a lot of honey, keepers are not keen on purchasing new extractors or filters,” said Yazbek.


Responses

  1. The Iridovirus (viral infection) has been around for a long, long time. And the Microsporidian fungal strain (fungal infection) has been around for probably even longer. So why didn’t honeybees get infected before?
    Obviously something had to change over the last few years to create a vulnerability to infection that’s causing the bees to die off.
    So what’s the real cause of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) ? Well it’s certainly not the mere presence of a virus and a fungus. Those are just the symptoms of something else that’s gone wrong.
    To really answer the question, a look at the environmental influences on honeybees is needed. What has changed over the last few years that could create an infection vulnerability among honeybees?
    Some of the more obvious factors to consider include:
    • An increase in the number of genetically engineered crops that are pollinated by honeybees.
    • An increase in the number of cell phone towers emitting radiation that might affect honeybees.
    • Increased pollution of streams and rivers (water sources for honeybees) with trace levels of pharmaceutical chemicals.
    • Increased air pollution and coal-fired power plant emissions.
    • Changes in the atmosphere which may impact the amount of solar radiation reaching honeybees.
    • Lack of genetic diversity among honeybees, creating an “in-breeding” genetic vulnerability to disease.
    … and so on. It’s not difficult to come up with a list of possible factors that are likely be the real root causes of CCD.
    I suspect that western scientists who are typically unwilling to consider environmental factors for just about everything (just look at the cancer industry!), will ignore these root causes and focus on the viral infections. And that will send them down the path of trying to come up with a honeybee vaccine rather than addressing the real root causes of the disease.

    • I said that because by just reading the word “infection” in the title of the article, the word “vaccine”-the common solution- came on my mind!

  2. There are certainly other possible factors that affect bee populations such as pesticides, potential disease vectors and lowered immunity among bee colonies, but this article suggests that climate change is occurring faster than bee populations can adapt to the changes. Nowadays, we notice that plants are flowering earlier each spring when bees are still in hibernation and the rate of pollination is decreasing year after year. A decline in pollination results in declining food and fruit production, as well the potential loss of plants through extinction.
    This issue should be a real concern around the world and should be dealt with it seriously.

  3. i think what is pinpointed in this article is a real consequences of rapid climate change. The increase of infections and the inability of the host to acquire the proper immunity or defense to deal with those infections is a major consequence resulting from the rapid rise in temperatures.And what happened in Lebanon with the example of Mr.Ajami and how his bees productivity decreased dramatically in a one year is clear evident on how fast the effects of climate change on those insects. Knowing that not only the increase in multiple infections that is affecting those insects but also the decrease in their food source. In fact, the second cause can somehow explain their weird behavior concerning their rate of multiplication, meaning that their low rate of reproduction can be seen as a mechanism of survival on their limited source of nutrients hoping that somehow the conditions will return to their previous natural state. unfortunately they don’t know what is coming ahead. They don’t know that the most depending organism (i mean us😉 ) on them is the primary cause leading to their decline and eventual extinction.

    biol 207

  4. Climate change with this fast speed may really make the bees unable to adapt to the new changes and consequently become more vulnerable to the infections due to their weak immunity. However other causes may also increase the problem which we are the responsible for them such as the synthetic sugars that some farmers use instead of the natural flowers to make the bees generate more honey. These sugars may contain bad materials which could harm the productivity of the bees and the quality of the honey produced.


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