Colony Collapse Cause(s) Discovered
Information and Theories 10/8/10
By: Chris Capps
In the 1990s a bee related terror was sweeping the nation in the form of highly aggressive killer bees. And as time wore on and our perception of what truly is a threat evolved alongside the times, a new fear came about. We no longer feared that we would all be overrun with aggressive stinging bees, but rather that we may lose the bees altogether. The fear of colony collapse disorder has been reigning ever since, compounding mystery on motivation for a more ecologically aware world. And it seems we may finally have an explanation for CCD thanks to the efforts of scientists working around the clock.
Colony collapse disorder (also known as CCD) first appeared in the United States in 2006. The term strikes fear into the heart of the world, the farmers who depend on the bees for their pollinating of crops. And as the rest of the world depends on the efforts of these farmers, the entire chain leads back to honeybees. The disorder, also known as honey bee depopulation syndrome has already claimed billions of bees with only a recent sign of slowing down - with causes just as mysterious as the disease itself. As of 2010, CCD has claimed over 40%. At this rate, some entomologists have made the claim that bees may be little more than a memory by the year 2018 unless action is taken. But what is this disease that Army Scientists in Maryland have claimed to have discovered, and how will it affect honeybees? Are we at the point of a great breakthrough?
The culprit is said to be a fungus already common in several regions and a virus that specifically targets bee colonies. Each alone is said to be problematic enough if introduced to bee populations, but together they form an unfortunately potent killing mechanism that can decimate or even cause the eventual collapse of the colony it is present in. The unfortunate ailment is the latest in a laundry list of suspects, but is thus far the most credible culprit in the killing of bee colonies. Entomologists (those who study insects) have been tracking the colonies and even isolating hives to follow the movements of dead bees. What they found was remarkable. Bees were not simply dying in the hives, they were vanishing altogether - dying out of sight from their central hub or hive in devastating numbers. As scientists tracked the bees themselves and searched the area around the hives for carcasses so they could perform autopsies they did discover them, but farther than the bees should have been moving.
It's thought the bees separate themselves from the hive to prevent further infection. They leave their brethren behind in a form of self induced quarantine. In doing this they actually lose themselves entirely on their final journey away from the hive and cannot find their ways back. The incredibly minute task of performing an autopsy on bees revealed to scientists that the insects were actually dying at various points, both while they were loaded with pollen and when they were simply leaving to exodus from the hive. It was as though they somehow knew they were infected with disease and were following orders to keep the hive from being further infected.
Of course further tests will have to be performed before a final conclusion can be made on colony collapse disorder's cause, but the fungus carrying the virus is at the moment the foremost suspect.