Nature Blog Network

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bee Decline Linked to Introduced Virus

Editors note: Since Eric started this whole bee thing. I am posting this press release I wrote as part of a writing exercise for a job application for the NAS.

Extensive bee decline has the agricultural community in a panic. Bees are responsible for pollinating many crops and provide a service to the industry estimated at $15 billion a year. Diane Cox-Foster, professor in the Entomology Department, Penn State, and colleagues report in the journal Science a correlation between this decline, called colony collapse disorder (CCD), and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV).

CCD is diagnosed by an inexplicable disappearance of adults, leaving honey, pollen and grubs behind. Surveys detailed a loss of 50-90% of commercial bee colonies. The first reported declines were in 2004, corresponding to when the U.S. allowed imported bees from Australia. This study is the first report of IADV in the United States.

The study’s authors report that IAPV was only found in CCD hives and from Australian samples, but caution this may be part of a multifaceted attack including parasites, poor nutrition, pesticides and environmental stressors. Future research will study the role of IAPV in CCD in relation to these stressors.

The National Research Council report Status of Pollinators in North America concluded that populations of North American pollinators are in rapid decline. More than three-quarters of commercially important flowering plants need pollinators for fertilization. The honeybee is responsible for pollinating over 90 crops. Causes for the decline are difficult to determine due to inadequate data. The report recommended establishing a network with Canada and Mexico to form long-term monitoring projects, along with a comprehensive survey to gather baseline data for future population assessments.

NRC Report Status of Pollinators in North America

Other Resources:

• NAS press release: Some Pollinator Populations Declining; Improved Monitoring and More Biological Knowledge Needed to Better Assess Their Status
• Cox-Foster et al. (2007) A Metagenomic Survey of Microbes in Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder. Science 318 (5848): 283-287. Doi: 10.1126/science.1146498
AAAS teleconference with study’s coauthors (teleconference begins around three minute mark)


  1. Wow it certainly was a bee filled day here! Cool write up for NAS too.

    What % of pollination is invert? I mean Bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies... seems 9 of ten of the agriculturally important species of pollinators are inverts.


  2. Hold yer horses there cowboy. Think about what the majority of crop plants are out there. Corn, wheat, oat, barley... In other words, grasses. Grasses are wind pollinated. BUT soybean is not grass and one of the world largest crops and IS honeybee pollinated.

    Evergreens and conifers are wind pollinated though and they are large component of the agro-economy.

  3. Many fruit and vegetable crops are insect-pollinated. Won't somebody think of the fruit and veggies?

  4. Apples, oranges, almonds, pumpkin, sunflowers... You got me on the grasses though. I was thinking inverts vs. birds, mammals etc. Totally dissed the wind.

  5. I love fruits and veggies!!

    But we should recognize that if the wind were to stop, we would be even more hard off... Save the wind!

  6. Who will save the wind?
    Oh the inhumanity of it all!

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