“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” – Albert Einstein

 

In two unrelated, independent studies released this month, researchers have taken a giant step forward in shedding new light on the causes of honey bee colony collapse disorder (CCD), an environmental threat first discovered shortly after the turn of the century that poses a serious threat to nature's ecological balance required to sustain plant and animal life.

Study results released this week involving cooperative research in both the U.S. and China has identified a viral pathogen that typically infects plants but has also been detected in honey bees, a condition most likely contributing to CCD. That pathogen, commonly known as Tobacco Ringspot Virus (TRSV), causes systemic infection in bees and results in colony collapse over time.

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In the other study, released Jan. 20 (2014) at the National Bee Conference in London, researchers indicated that not only three neonicotinoid pesticides adversely affect bee colonies as previously known, but that prolonged exposure to a pyrethroid pesticide used on flowering crops contributes to the reduced size of individual bees produced by a colony, which in turn reduces pollination and the overall number of bees produced.

See what the agriculture industry is doing to address honey bee colony collapse disorder.

Researchers sounded the alarm nearly 10 years ago when the global population of honey bees began to mysteriously decline. In 2005 the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated the worth of global crops by honeybee pollination was close to $200 billion, so the steady decline in bee population quickly became a serious and developing crisis worldwide.

By the 2008, the radical reduction of honey bee populations had developed into a global epidemic, negatively affecting ecosystems in a multitude of environments. Across North America, domestic honey bee populations declined by 30 to 90 percent within individual colonies, and similar numbers were reported by Canada, Mexico and across much of the European Union (EU).

In recent years the EU banned used of the three neonicotinoid pesticides in an attempt to slow or counter the decline in bee populations. But new research indicates that move may have fallen short of providing adequate safeguards for the re-propagation of bee colonies.

Continuing research in declining bee population has uncovered a multitude of possible contributing factors, including the wide use of pesticides related to agriculture, Varroa mites, Nosema, and now TRSV.