I haven't written about this in a while. Colony Collapse Disorder is a problem that has been devastating the American honeybee industry. Many of their domesticated bees seem to be dying far away from their hive, which has seemed a little mysterious. It has been blamed on genetically modified flowers, cellphones and the rapture. Breathlessly, the newspapers have presented these stories (in particular, Spiegel has published the worst nonsense).
Today, a paper in Science presents a model (and data! We here at the Factory love data!). They used some crazy 454 DNA sequencing power to sequence bacteria and viruses in and on the bee colonies and compare that to healthy colonies. And what did they find? Well, the CCD samples contained more infectious agents on average (3.7 vs 2.1). And one particular virus:
[Israeli acute paralysis virus] IAPV was, with a single exception, confined to CCD samples, yielding a positive predictive value of 96.1% and a specificity of 95.2%The one non-CCD source was from Australia. Apparently Israeli acute paralysis virus is endemic there. What does this mean?
IAPV was first described in 2004 in Israel (18) where infected bees presented with shivering wings, progressed to paralysis and then died just outside the hive. All CCD operations sampled used imported bees from Australia or were intermingled with operations that had done so. Importation to the United States of bees from Australia began in 2004, coinciding with early reports of unusual colony declines. Although the shivering phenotype is not reported in imported Australian bees or in CCD, differences in IAPV pathogenicity may reflect strain variation, co-infection, or the presence of other stressors such as pesticides or poor nutrition. The varroa mite, for example, absent in Australia, immunosuppresses bees, making them more susceptible to infection by other organisms, including viruses (19, 20). Other stressors may include chemical pesticides used on plants pollinated by bees and in hives to control pests. Crop pesticide use is similar in both the United States and Australia.Hmmm... so a combination of a new disease with slightly different conditions may have stressed out these bees. No cell phones? No rapture? No GM plants? Spiegel, what do you have to say? Bueller?