Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bee Ware

(Picture from Wikipedia)

I have written before about things being connected. I am always looking for and/or finding connections between seemingly unrelated things. I did it again.

As you're probably aware, I like bugs. The social insects I find particularly interesting. Bees are one such creature. They do what's best for the hive, defending it from intruders, and if they're sick, they leave the hive so as not to spread disease. Bees have been in the news recently because of "Colony Collapse Disorder", whereby complete colonies of bees simply cease to exist. According to a recent PBS documentary, if something isn't done to alleviate the problem, by the year 2035 we may have to pollinate our own plants. There's a city in China, dependent on the pear crop, already doing that; it's a painstaking, long process to collect the pollen, dry it out, then individually pollinate every pear blossom to produce fruit.

Of course there are a number of agencies world wide looking into this CCD because results could mean a disaster on the world wide level. So what is making the bees disappear? Undoubtedly there are environmental factors, like global warming or wetter weather making life difficult for the bee. (A drenched bee is one of life's most pathetic creatures-it cannot fly until it dries off and is therefore vulnerable to any predator. That's the best time to pet one though, as they sit and wait.)

There are parasites that can cause problems for the bees, though on their own, the parasites don't seem to cause the wide scale bee loss that is being observed. There is also a fungus that bees get that seems to be contributing to the loss.

Some speculate that the mobile bee keepers who move their hives from field to field may be contributing to CCD, the bees gaining increased exposure to bees from other hives and with other parasites or diseases. Or that the movement is exposing more and more colonies to different pesticides and poisons.

But the most interesting (to me) possible cause of CCD is Israel Acute Paralysis Virus. It has been found in a great number of tested CCD colonies and while causation has not been proven, there appears to be a link.

In IAPV, the bee becomes sick, then paralyzed. Nature doesn't cope well when its creatures can't move, therefore they die. En mass. The virus can be transmitted by mites, those pesky little parasites. It would be akin to us getting Lyme disease from a tick.

One of the terms used in the PBS show I watched was "perfect storm". Heard that before. A perfect storm of events transpire to kill off the bees. Immune supression because of parasite infestation, exposure to less than ideal circumstances in the environment, and onset of a virus. On their own, each circumstance is survivable and uneventful, but put all three together and you get the perfect storm resulting in CCD.

MS is much like CCD. We have a certain genetic makeup that makes our immune system go a little haywire, add to that less than ideal environment (perhaps not enough vitamin D), and exposure to a childhood illness, and bingo! MS. Each of those circumstances on their own probably don't cause MS, but put 'em together and you've got it.

I couldn't help but think of the connection between both these illnesses while watching the documentary. As we discover more and more about how our systems work with, and sometimes against, each other, we understand biology a little better. I just wish the discoveries came a little faster.



Eyal said...

please take a look at there may be an answer to IAPV soon.

Shauna said...

Thanks for the link. Good luck with he testing.



I've been interested in this phenomenon here in the States, too...I really don't think the human population "gets it"...we are all interconnected and that includes the bees!

Linda D. in Seattle

Shauna said...

I recall hearing that the weight of all the insects in the world is greater than the weight of the world itself....They are an intricate part of life and yet are so small (mostly) they go unnoticed and unminded until something bad happens. Like CCD.

Just imagine if there were no beetles to cart away dead material. No bugs for birds or reptiles to eat, no bees for honey or to pollinate our crops. Take away the bugs and life as we know it would cease to exist.


mdmhvonpa said...

Wait ... you like bugs?


Shauna said...

Smarty pants.....