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The Military Science

Mystery of the Dying Bees Solved 347

jamie points out news of a study attempting to explain the decline of honeybee populations across the US. As it turns out, the fungus N. ceranae that was thought to be killing off bee colonies had a partner in crime — a DNA-based virus that worked in tandem with N. ceranae to compromise nutrition uptake. From the NY Times: "Dr. Bromenshenk's team at the University of Montana and Montana State University in Bozeman, working with the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center northeast of Baltimore, said in their jointly written paper that the virus-fungus one-two punch was found in every killed colony the group studied. Neither agent alone seems able to devastate; together, the research suggests, they are 100 percent fatal. 'It's chicken and egg in a sense — we don't know which came first,' Dr. Bromenshenk said of the virus-fungus combo — nor is it clear, he added, whether one malady weakens the bees enough to be finished off by the second, or whether they somehow compound the other's destructive power. 'They're co-factors, that's all we can say at the moment,' he said. 'They're both present in all these collapsed colonies.'"
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Mystery of the Dying Bees Solved

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  • by marcansoft ( 727665 ) <{moc.tfosnacram} {ta} {rotceh}> on Friday October 08, 2010 @04:47PM (#33840596) Homepage

    RNA retroviruses, such as HIV.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2010 @04:48PM (#33840608)

    Maybe the most famous [] of them all.

  • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @04:51PM (#33840648) Homepage Journal

    Are bees an integral part of our society, and do they need to be present else we die off somehow.

    If you'll excuse a slight over simplification: Yes.


  • by slew ( 2918 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @04:51PM (#33840656)

    What the hell kind of virus isn't DNA-based?

    For example, the flu is an RNA based virus []...
    Perhaps you might want to stick to writing computer programs ;^)

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @04:53PM (#33840682)


    Do you eat any fruits or eat anything that ever ate a fruit? Including fruits that some people think are vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, cumcumbers, etc?

    If so thank a bee. We do not have the man power to pollinate our crops by hand, without bees no fruit.

  • by bhcompy ( 1877290 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @04:56PM (#33840706)
    Bees are the primary pollinators in our world. Without them we'll have serious issues with plant growth and our food supply
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @04:59PM (#33840734) Homepage Journal

    I assume you're joking, but just in case:
    Honey is not the main thing we get from bees. The main thing we get from bees is pollination, and our food supply would suffer significantly if they were wiped out.

  • by b0bby ( 201198 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:01PM (#33840746)

    Are bees an integral part of our society, and do they need to be present else we die off somehow....the impact of the species becoming extinct is not unimportant as let's say the platapus....I think if we can, we should help the species by giving them some sort of cure, if we can find it....else we might go without honey in our future.

    Honey is just a nice side benefit - many many crops rely on bees to pollinate them. So much so that in the US, farmers pay people to drive hives around on trucks to pollinate their fields at the right time. Before this study, the stress of transport was thought to be connected to collapse disorder; it may still be a contributing cause.

  • by Kilrah_il ( 1692978 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:05PM (#33840802)

    Really all that needs to be developed is a weak fungicide that targets it, and that's not as hard as it sounds.

    Actually, it is not that easy. Antibiotics (for bacteria) are easier to make than antifungals and that is one of the reasons why we don't have so many anti-fungal drugs for humans (and hu-womans).
    Granted, when you develop a drug for bees you are less worried about side-effects than you are with humans, but it's still not that easy.

  • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:11PM (#33840870)

    Bees aren't the only pollinating insects. Certain kinds of flies also do a decent job. Many plants are also self-pollinating, to one extent or another. And there's always the option of doing it manually.

    That said, bees are extremely vital and their disappearance is cause for serious concern.

  • by dunsel ( 559042 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:14PM (#33840906)
    As a practical beekeeper I feel it is my duty to take this one step further and speculate on how to apply this finding to saving my bees. Virus transmission should be kept to a minimum, I can't think of much else to do to keep a virus like this in check. The primary vector for honeybee viruses is the varroa mite and this pest continues to be the primary killer of honeybees despite all of the hubub about this "Colony Collapse Disorder". Finding that this mite has a hand in CCD is no surprise to me. Nosema is not new to the beekeeping world although N. ceranae is a bigger problem than the tamer N. apis that we're used to dealing with. The treatment is the same though, feed Fumidil B. The bad news is that there isn't much new here so there won't be a silver bullet cure. Keep the bees healthy as best we can, that's about all I can see here.
  • by RatherBeAnonymous ( 1812866 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:33PM (#33841104)
    This is not a problem world wide, and it is only a problem for professional bee keepers and farmers in the US. Even farmers are able to compensate by keeping their own hives, as non-mobile colonies tend to fare better, or by providing habitat for native pollinators. All of the wild honey bees in the Americas are really feral bees, escaped domesticated bees. The interesting point here is that the decline of the honey bee, a European species, is allowing American native pollinators to return. This includes dozens of species of American bees that are not being killed off by this fungus/virus combination. Since the colony collapse disorder spread to my region, I have seen an explosion of bumble bees and other interesting native bee species now that they are not being out-competed by the feral honey bees. If we are lucky, this disease will continue to kill off feral honey bee hives, sparing native bees.
  • Just to point out (Score:5, Informative)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:49PM (#33841234)

    That farmers have to pay to have hives driven round because they liberally spray insecticides which wipe out local populations of native insects, including bees.


  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @06:35PM (#33841590)

    Bees are shipped all over the world, Australia and Israel are big bee colony producers.

  • by Seraphim_72 ( 622457 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @07:52PM (#33842180)
    This is going to sound wine snob - sorry.

    Brown is like its name, thick, earthy, think fresh turned earth, with sugar.

    Green is as well, light, airy, with a sharpness - and there is the rub. Many do not like a sharpness in their sweet.
  • by Kilrah_il ( 1692978 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @08:25PM (#33842422)

    The main reason that bacteria are easier to attack than fungi is that, since they are further down the evolutionary chain (they are prokaryotes, not eukaryotes like the fungi and humans), they are more likely to have proteins different enough from ours to serve as safe targets for drugs. Finding a protein that is foundamental for a fungi's survival yet different enough from the human counterpart is the main obstacle in developing effective antifungals.

    The problem with viruses is that since they use the host's cellular machinary, they usually have a small amount of unique proteins, and thus exacerbating the problem mentioned above. BTW, an antiviral drug doesn't have to prompt the immune system's response (Interferon does that, but others, such oseltamivir, do not).

    P.S. It's 2AM, I don't feel like including Wikipedia links. Feel free to look up what you need yourself. Sorry.

  • by mnbob ( 1476943 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @08:28PM (#33842440)
    Consider getting a colony of your own. It's the closest thing you'll ever have to an alien civilzation in your backyard.

    I started this year and the time investment is very low once the colony is established. Most of the time they'll be happier if you just leave them alone. []

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.