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Friday, November 21, 2008

Colony Collapse Disorder and cow Urine?

Trying to imagine a world without bees is not an easy task. Sure you wouldn’t have them buzzing around every time you ate lunch outside and your kids would be safe from painful stings during summer adventures but would we really notice if they went missing?

Would it really affect your life if tomorrow you woke up, turned on the news and realized that all the bees had just disappeared?

The answer is yes. Your life would be drastically affected if they were to disappear.

Considering that bees are responsible for about 30% of the food supply in the U.S. alone, I’d say that we depend on them more than one might realize.

The honeybee population has dropped by half over the last 50 years. While many are baffled by the incredible decrease, others contribute it mainly to mites and pesticides.

Not only would we lose fruits and vegetables that the honeybee pollinates but the Leafcutter bee and Alkali bee, which pollinate alfalfa, are also in danger. This poses a major threat to the meat supply.
A New Hope For The Bee Population?

There have been recent reports out of India about the use of cow urine to control microbial diseases in bee larva. Yes, you read that correctly. Researchers have been spraying the eggs with cow urine, which not only controls microbial disease during the rearing processes but also makes the colony work more efficiently by removing the unhealthy larva. The cow urine seems to be an efficient, safe alternative to the medicines that are currently used to treat microbial disease.

While this sounds a little unconventional for many, it could be a major step in helping increase the honeybee population.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The researchers then sampled wild bumblebee populations around the greenhouses, catching bees in butterfly nets, holding them in vials and taking them back to a laboratory to screen for pathogens, including testing their feces.

The patterns that had been predicted by their mathematical model were borne out by studying the wild bees, they said.

Most of the parasites in the wild bumblebees were found to be at normal levels except for one intestinal parasite known as Crithidia bombi that is common in commercial bee colonies but typically absent in wild bumblebees.

The researchers found that up to half of wild bumblebees near the greenhouses were infected with this parasite.

"All of the different species of bumblebees that we sampled around greenhouses showed the same pattern: really high levels of infection near greenhouses and then declining levels of infection as you moved out," said Michael Otterstatter of the University of Toronto, one of the researchers.

"It was quite obvious that this was coming from the greenhouses and it was a general adverse effect on the bumblebees," Otterstatter added in a telephone interview.

He said the parasite weakens and often kills bees. The "spillover" of disease from commercial colonies may be a factor in the decline of bee populations in North America, he added.

The study, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, can be read here

(Editing by Maggie Fox and Sandra Maler

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- A survey of bee health released Tuesday revealed a grim picture, with 36.1 percent of the nation's commercially managed hives lost since last year.

Bees are dying at unsustainable levels, the president of the Apiary Inspectors of America says.

Last year's survey commissioned by the Apiary Inspectors of America found losses of about 32 percent.

As beekeepers travel with their hives this spring to pollinate crops around the country, it's clear the insects are buckling under the weight of new diseases, pesticide drift and old enemies like the parasitic varroa mite, said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, president of the group.

This is the second year the association has measured colony deaths across the country. This means there aren't enough numbers to show a trend, but clearly bees are dying at unsustainable levels and the situation is not improving, said vanEngelsdorp, also a bee expert with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

"For two years in a row, we've sustained a substantial loss," he said. "That's an astonishing number. Imagine if one out of every three cows, or one out of every three chickens, were dying. That would raise a lot of alarm."

The survey included 327 operators who account for 19 percent of the country's approximately 2.44 million commercially managed beehives. The data is being prepared for submission to a journal.

About 29 percent of the deaths were due to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious disease that causes adult bees to abandon their hives. Beekeepers who saw CCD in their hives were much more likely to have major losses than those who didn't.

"What's frightening about CCD is that it's not predictable or understood," vanEngelsdorp said.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff announced that the state would pour an additional $20,400 into research at Pennsylvania State University looking for the causes of CCD. This raises emergency funds dedicated to investigating the disease to $86,000.

The issue also has attracted federal grants and funding from companies that depend on honeybees, including ice-cream maker Haagen-Dazs.

Because the berries, fruits and nuts that give about 28 of Haagen-Dazs' varieties flavor depend on honeybees for pollination, the company is donating up to $250,000 to CCD and sustainable pollination research at Penn State and the University of California, Davis.

Saturday, February 09, 2008