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Bee calamity clarified

An illness that has been decimating US honeybees for more than three years probably isn't caused by a single virus, but by multiple viruses that wear down the bees' ability to produce proteins that can guard them against infection, according to a new study.Image: courtesy of Joseph Spencer "We may not have the smoking gun," University of Illinois entomologist linkurl:May Berenbaum,;http://www.life.illinois.edu/entomology/faculty/berenbaum.html the study's main author, told __The Scientist__, bu

By | August 24, 2009

An illness that has been decimating US honeybees for more than three years probably isn't caused by a single virus, but by multiple viruses that wear down the bees' ability to produce proteins that can guard them against infection, according to a new study.
Image: courtesy of Joseph Spencer
"We may not have the smoking gun," University of Illinois entomologist linkurl:May Berenbaum,;http://www.life.illinois.edu/entomology/faculty/berenbaum.html the study's main author, told __The Scientist__, but "we found the bullet hole." Cells taken from bees that had succumbed to colony collapse disorder (CCD) were cluttered with ribosomal RNA fragments, suggesting that the bees had trouble translating genetic material into functional proteins, Berenbaum and her colleagues linkurl:report;http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/08/21/0906970106 today (August 24) in the __Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences__. "This is an elegant piece of work that weaves together data on host gene expression, microflora and observations of linkurl:others;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;318/5848/283?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=Lipkin%2C+I&andorexacttitle=or&andorexacttitleabs=or&andorexactfulltext=or&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&fdate=7/1/1880&tdate=8/31/2009&resourcetype=HWCIT,HWELTR into a coherent and compelling story," W. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University researcher who was not involved with the study, wrote in an email to __The Scientist__. Berenbaum and colleagues at the US Department of Agriculture screened thousands of transcripts in the guts of bees from both healthy and CCD-stricken colonies from the east and west coasts of the US. CCD bees had several unusual RNA fragments resulting from broken, malfunctioning ribosomes. Multiple infections with a family of viruses called the picorna-like viruses, which seem to especially afflict CCD bees, could cause the appearance of such RNA fragments as they overwhelmed ribosomes and limited the cells' ability to manufacture functioning proteins. Bees that are not able to make proteins cannot mount effective responses to viral or bacterial infection or respond to dietary shortages, Berenbaum said. Although the study didn't uncover a single cause for CCD, said linkurl:Dan Weaver,;http://www.rweaver.com/hist.html a Texas-based apiculturist who was not involved with the research, it "provides some hints and suggestive evidence that maybe there's a general impairment of bees' ability to cope with pathogens at a basic regulatory step." Berenbaum said that CCD may not be the result of one particular pathogen or environmental factor, but rather may occur when multiple viral infections overwhelm the bees' translational machinery. Bees may be able to handle one or two viral infections simultaneously, but not three or four. "You can recover from a gunshot wound," Berenbaum said, "unless someone is kicking you in the head at the same time." While apiculturists like Weaver would rather have a single pathogenic cause of CCD in hand, the disorder, which has caused widespread bee mortalities in the US since 2006, appears to be more complex than that. "It would be better if we had more definitive evidence of what exactly is going on," Weaver said. "I think that would be everyone's fervent hope. But so far that hasn't materialized." Berenbaum's study does, however, rule out some of the previously suggested theories for the cause of CCD. For example, the screen failed to turn up elevated expression of pesticide response genes in CCD bees. "The pattern we saw was inconsistent with pesticides as a cause," said Berenbaum, adding that this will probably not stop some in the honeybee business from blaming pesticide manufacturers for the disorder. Interestingly, the screen also failed to find increased expression of immune response genes, suggesting that the bees were not able to mount effective responses to the pathogens attacking their colonies. In addition to the ribosomal RNA fragments, Berenbaum's screen revealed a suite of other transcripts, at least one of which resulted from viral infection, which corresponded to CCD. Berenbaum said that she hopes researchers can use these characteristic transcripts and ribosomal RNA fragments to develop a way to rapidly identify bees struck with CCD. "At the very least we have markers that we think is a reliable and objective indicator of CCD," she said. "Ultimately we can have a quick assay that would allow a more objective analysis of CCD." Weaver welcomed the idea, but lamented the pace at which scientists are able to fully understand CCD. "I'm happy that we're making progress," he said. "It's just painfully slow."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:A bee's life;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/55032/
[October 2008]*linkurl:Buzzing for bombs;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53776/
[November 2007]
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Comments

Avatar of: Suzanne Hubbard

Suzanne Hubbard

Posts: 1

August 25, 2009

For more information, articles with links to scientific references and reports are also posted at the USDA Agricultural Research Service web site:\n"Honey Bees with Colony Collapse Disorder Show their Genes" (http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090824.2.htm)\n"Pathogen Loads Higher in Bee Colonies Suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder" (http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090812.htm)\n"Bee-Killing Parasite's Genome Sequenced" (http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090605.htm)\n"Survey Reports Latest Honey Bee Losses" (http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090519.htm)
Avatar of: Hugh Fletcher

Hugh Fletcher

Posts: 44

August 25, 2009

Yet another explanation for bee colony collapse, but is it better than the others? Why should several viruses suddenly have this effect? One virus I could believe, but a collection? If there are many viruses they are secondary, not the cause.\nI will await confirmation.
Avatar of: willaim coniglio

willaim coniglio

Posts: 1

August 25, 2009

This study may illuminate the physiological mode of action for the malady called CCD. The study does not shed light on the causative agent or agents of "CCD" yet the author implies the involvement of multiple agents. Supportive evidence needed for this assertion.\n\nLet me add information as a scientist and beekeeper in New Jersey. As a member of the executive board of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, I am not aware of a single case of "CCD" among non migratory, non pollinator urban, suburban and rural beekeepers in New Jersey.\n\nThe only cases a "CCD" I know about have occured among beekeepers who are commercial pollinators, especially those who are migratory.\n\nSince the introduction of varroa and Israeli virus predate the occurrence of "CCD" reason dictates that they can not be causative.\n\nThe causative agent is one of the variables unique to migratory beekeepers who pollinate commercial crops.\n\nMovement of hives is stressive but predates the "CCD" epidemic. Contaminated high fructose corn syrup and chemicals used in commercial crop production may be involved. The beekeepers who experienced the "CCD" epidemic have provided this kind of information.\n\nIt is time to use the epidemiologic approach to direct the "CCD" investigation, if we want a solution.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 117

August 26, 2009

If I understood corretly, when a colony is hit by CCD, the dead bees are not found in the hive. I.e. they die somwhere outside the hive.\n\nHow can Berenbaum's findings account for that? Woud she suggest that the arduous flight-activity outside the hive acts like "the kick in the head" to a human suffering from a severe gunshot?
Avatar of: ROBERT DODGE

ROBERT DODGE

Posts: 29

August 26, 2009

I don't hold any particular position on the cause of CCD, but the "interesting" observation that there is no gene response to either pesticides or infection supports neither position. The rather weak suggestion that multiple viruses must have "overwhelmed" the immune system is little better than a proposal that high pesticide challenges "overwhelmed" the gene response. I agree with the previous poster that perhaps a more rigorous epidemiological approach should be added to the investigation along with the molecular one, particularly if more than one agent in combination is suspected.
Avatar of: Queshaun Sudbury

Queshaun Sudbury

Posts: 1

August 26, 2009

National Institute of Health published inNature 2006 october 26, its Insights into social insects from the genome of the honeybee Apis mellifera, "Here we report the genome sequence of the honeybee Apis Mellifera, a key model for social behavior and essential to global ecology through pollination." \n\nThe specific biological rationale for utility of new sequence data, the suitability of bees as a model for human health, argued, "instincts and mental health, cognition, immunity and disease, developmental biology, gene ragulation, gerontology, and comparative genomics." \n\nYet, it seems that the epidemiologists have hijacked the debate. \n\nScience Magazine, vol 318, 12 October 2007, pp 283-287, discussed the results of a Metagenomic Survey by Diana Cox-Foster, et al., "We used CCD as a model to establish a strategy for investigating epidemics of unexplained infectious diseases." id, p286. \n\nResponding to a comment on their report, Cox-Foster characterized CCD, "CCD is characterized by a rapid loss of adult bees; excess brood, in all stages, abaondoned in the hive; low levels of varroa; and a lack of dead bees in or near the hive." Science Magazine. vol 319, Letter, p725, 8 February 2008. \n\nThe behavioral aspects of CCD have been ignored, outright dismissed. \n\nWhy?\n\nSantiago Ramon y Cajal, in his Advice for a Young Investigator, would call it politics. \n\nPerhaps.\n\nQueshaun Sudbury\nPhyletic Research Group Corporation
Avatar of: susan hardin

susan hardin

Posts: 6

August 28, 2009

Virus and bacteria are used to genetically engineer commercial agriculture. As a urban beekeeper whose bees are not exposed to commercial agriculture, one has to wonder. If the uptake of E.coli from rapeseed crops to the bee gut has scientifically been proven, why shouldn't we assume that other pathogens of recombinant nature are being passed through agricultural technologies?
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

August 28, 2009

Dear Sirs or Madams as the case may be:\nThank goodness genetically modified crops and their poisonous pollen have had no impact upon the bees! I notice it receives no attention whatsoever in your report; therefore it must have no impact. QED. BTW, it seems that organic beekeepers have no problems with colony collapse; perhaps because their bees pollinate organic crops rather than GMOs. What a puzzler! Perhaps you could do a study on this as well? Zounds!
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 4

August 29, 2009

The immune systems of honey bees are unable to 'translate' because cell phone and wifi tower/antenna 'interference' prevents them from doing so. Please read the Bioinitiative Report below.\n\nAudio Archives - Interviews with Top Researchers:\nhttp://electromagnetichealth.org/audio-archives-and-more/#patients\n\nAttitudes to the Health Dangers of Non-Thermal EMFs:\nhttp://www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20080117_bevington_emfs.pdf\n\nBecker Interview: \nhttp://www.energyfields.org/science/becker.html\n\nBioinitiative Report:\nhttp://www.bioinitiative.org/report/index.htm
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 4

August 29, 2009

The following report should explain why the honeybees are having difficulty 'translating' genetic material into funcional proteins that can fight disease, as well as their 'behavioral' tendency to avoid the hive and die away from it.\n\nIt's the CELL PHONE and WIFI towers and antennas that are causing CCD among the honeybees. Research into White Nose Fungus among the bats in the northeastern U.S. will likely yield similar findings.\n\nhttp://www.bioinitiative.org/report/index.htm\n\nSECTION 5: Evidence for Effects on Gene and Protein Expression (Transcriptomic and Proteomic Research)\nDr. Xu and Dr. Chen\n\nSECTION 6: Evidence for Genotoxic Effects ? RFR and ELF DNA Damage\nDr. Lai\n\nSECTION 7: Evidence for Stress Response (Stress Proteins)\nDr. Blank\n\nSECTION 8: Evidence for Effects on Immune Function\nDr. Johansson\n\nSECTION 9: Evidence for Effects on Neurology and Behavior\nDr. Lai \n\nAudio Archives - Interviews with Top Researchers:\nhttp://electromagnetichealth.org/audio-archives-and-more/#patients\n\nAttitudes to the Health Dangers of Non-Thermal EMFs:\nhttp://www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20080117_bevington_emfs.pdf\n\nBecker Interview: \nhttp://www.energyfields.org/science/becker.html
Avatar of: susan hardin

susan hardin

Posts: 6

August 30, 2009

As soon as genetic engineering is mentioned the cell phone and wifi towers are presented. My bees are exposed to this technology as I live in one of the most populated areas of the country. However they are not exposed to genetically engineered agriculture.

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