Virus Implicated In Colony Collapse Disorder In Bees

A team led by scientists from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Pennsylvania State University, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, University of Arizona, and 454 Life Sciences has found a significant connection between the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) and colony collapse disorder (CCD) in honey bees.

The findings, an important step in addressing the disorder that is decimating bee colonies across the country, are published in the journal Science.

In colony collapse disorder, honey bee colonies inexplicably lose all of their worker bees. CCD has resulted in a loss of 50-90% of colonies in beekeeping operations across the U.S. The consortium of scientists who have been studying the role of infection in this phenomenon includes Diana Cox-Foster, professor in the Department of Entomology at Pennsylvania State University, Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Jeffery Pettis, research leader of the ARS Bee Research Laboratory, and Nancy Moran, Professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Ian Lipkin, MD, professor of Epidemiology, Neurology, and Pathology at Columbia, and his team at the Mailman School's Center for Infection and Immunity, together with a team at 454 Life Sciences, used revolutionary genetic technologies, to survey microflora of CCD hives, normal hives, and imported royal jelly. Candidate pathogens were screened for significance of association with CCD by examining samples collected by the USDA and Penn State from several sites over a period of three years.

Using the 454 Life Sciences high-throughput DNA sequencing platform, and analytical methods developed at Columbia, Dr. Lipkin's team searched for footprints of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites in thousands of sequences. Candidates were further characterized by more detailed sequence analysis to ascertain their specificity for CCD and relationship to known and unknown pathogens.

IAPV, an unclassified dicistrovirus not previously reported in the U.S. that is transmitted by the varroa mite, and Kasmir bee virus were only found in CCD hives. The researchers report that IAPV was found in all four affected operations sampled, in two of four royal jelly samples, and in the Australian sample. KBV was present in three of four CCD operations, but not in the royal jelly. One organism was significantly correlated with CCD: finding IAPV in a bee sample correctly distinguished CCD from non-CCD status 96.1 percent of the time.

"This is a powerful new strategy for looking at outbreaks of infectious disease and finding cause. Dr. Cox-Foster recruited us into this project, making a persuasive case for applying our state-of-the-art methods for differential diagnosis of infectious disease in humans, to this challenge in agricultural epidemiology," said Dr. Lipkin. "The profound synergy within the group--bringing entomology, microbiology, and bioinformatics together--enabled us to work toward a solution to this extraordinarily complex problem."

This is the first report of IAPV in the United States. IAPV was first described in 2004 in Israel where infected bees presented with shivering wings, progressed to paralysis and then died just outside the hive. Importation to the U.S. of bees from Australia began in 2004, coinciding with early reports of unusual colony declines.

IAPV was found in non-CCD hives in some cases, which could reflect strain variation, co-infection, or the presence of other stressors, such as pesticides or poor nutrition. The varroa mite, for example, absent in Australia, immunosuppresses bees making them more susceptible to infection by other organisms, including viruses. Other stressors may include chemical pesticides used on plants pollinated by bees and in hives to control pests.

"Our results indicate that IAPV is a significant marker for CCD. This discovery may be helpful in identifying hives at risk for disease. The next step is to ascertain whether IAPV, alone or in concert with other factors, can induce CCD in healthy bees," added Dr. Lipkin.

Bees play an integral role in the world food supply, and are essential for the pollination of over 90 fruit and vegetable crops worldwide, with the economic value of these agricultural products placed at more than $14.6 billion in the U.S. In addition to agricultural crops, honey bees also pollinate many native plants within the ecosystem. Recently, the increased deaths in bee colonies due to CCD seriously threaten the ability of the bee industry to meet the pollination needs of fruit and vegetable producers in the U.S.

'Killer bees' seem resistant to disorder!

By Dan Sorenson

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 03.30.2007

Although experts are stumped about what's causing the colony-collapse disorder die-off in U.S. commercial beehives, there is some speculation that Arizona's famed Africanized -- or "killer bee" -- wild-bee population is somehow immune.

Dee Lusby's bees are doing fine. Actually, they're doing better than that, says the owner of Lusby Apiaries & Arizona Rangeland Honey of Arivaca.

Lusby has 900 hives of "free range" organic bees spread out over ranches from Benson to Sasabe.

"I've only lost one or two, maybe three (hives) out of every 30 or 40 hives," said Lusby. She's not surprised by her good fortune or the modern commercial beekeepers' hive-mortality rates.

Lusby has a hunch the disorder is the result of a number of factors, including the use of pesticides, bee-growth formulas, artificial food supplements, breeding for size, inbreeding -- all or some of which may make them susceptible to mites, viruses and fungi -- and maybe even some strange side effects from feeding on genetically modified crops.

Breeding for size is a major factor, Lusby believes. She says the commercial honeybees are now too large to feed on some of the very plants that historically may have given them immunity to diseases and parasites. They're simply too big to get into those plant's flowers, she says.

And the man who takes the bees out of Bisbee, Reed "The Killer Bee Guy" Booth, says he's not surprised Africanized bees are thriving.

Booth started out with beekeeping to make retail honey and honey mustard, and branched out to do bee removals after the Africanized bees invaded Arizona in the early 1990s. He says he gets one to five eradication calls a day from around Cochise County during warm weather. "It's going to be a banner year for bees," he says.

"The Africanized bees are somewhat more resistant" than the European honeybees, he says of the aggressive, slightly smaller wild bees that produce bumper crops of honey and bad press. "But they're somewhat resistant to anything, probably including nuclear war." Booth says he switched from European bees to wild Africanized bees not long after they spread through Arizona.

"I used to have two sets of hives," says Booth. "But I got tired of going down and either finding my European bees Africanized or dead. I gave up, so, Killer Bee Honey." But Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, research leader of the USDA's Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, is not so quick to crown the wildly enthusiastic Africanized honeybees as superior. "We don't push the African populations like we do Europeans," DeGrandi-Hoffman said of the carefully genetically controlled honeybees used by commercial beekeepers for field work. "We're putting them on trucks and taking them halfway across the country. We're stressing them in almost a feedlot situation, feeding them protein supplements. We're stressing them pretty good. And that doesn't happen with Africans."


Scientists Identify Pathogens That May Be Causing Global Honey-Bee Deaths

Researchers have identified potential culprits behind the wide-spread catastrophic death of honey bees around North America and Europe.

ECBC researchers have identified potential culprits behind the wide-spread catastrophic death of honey bees around North America and Europe. (Credit: Scott Bauer, USDA/ARS)

A team of scientists from Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and University of California San Francisco identified both a virus and a parasite that are likely behind the recent sudden die-off of honey-bee colonies.

Using a new technology called the Integrated Virus Detection System (IVDS), which was designed for military use to rapidly screen samples for pathogens, ECBC scientists last week isolated the presence of viral and parasitic pathogens that may be contributing to the honeybee loss.

Confirmation testing was conducted over the weekend by scientists at the University of California San Francisco. ECBC scientists presented the results of their studies yesterday to a United States Department of Agriculture working group, hastily convened to determine next steps.

For the past year, experts have observed a marked decline in the honey bee population, with entire colonies collapsing without warning. Approximately 50 percent of hives have disappeared and researchers around the country are scrambling to find out why. Scientists have termed this phenomenon "Colony Collapse Disorder" and fear that without honey bees to pollinate crops like fruits, vegetables, and almonds the loss of honey bees could have an enormous horticultural and economic impact around the world.

ECBC is one of many academic, commercial and government concerns studying the honey bee population decline. ECBC's role will be to identify the extent of the problem and conduct ongoing detection activities.


A honey bee mite has been discovered at a bee farm in Manoa, Oahu, after abandoned hives from Makiki Heights were relocated to the property last week. Varroa mites were detected on bees in three of the abandoned hives on April 6 by the beekeeper and reported to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA). Samples of the mites have been sent to a mite specialist at a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) laboratory on the mainland for confirmatory identification.

The varroa mite is considered one of the most serious honey bee pests and occurs almost worldwide. Hawaii had been one of the few places where the mite was not known to occur. It is not known at this time how the mites were introduced to Oahu. So far, surveys conducted on hives in the Tantalus, UH-Manoa and Makiki area have detected varying degrees of infestation of the mite. Surveys on commercial hives on the Big Island, where several of the state’s queen bee raising operations are located, have not detected the Varroa mite.

"This bee mite poses a major threat to Hawaii's bee industry and to feral bee populations," said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, Chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. "Teams of HDOA staff have been working rapidly to determine the extent of the infestation and to establish containment and control plans." HDOA Plant Industry staff from three branches, including entomologists, plant quarantine inspectors, plant pest control specialists and pesticides specialists, have mobilized statewide and are working closely with the local bee industry and USDA officials.

"We are enlisting the help of all beekeepers, commercial and backyard hobbyists, to help us in assessing the extent of this infestation," said Lyle Wong, administrator of HDOA's Plant Industry Division. "HDOA officials will be visiting bee hives to conduct surveys and the cooperation of beekeepers is very crucial in possibly stopping the spread of the varroa mite."

Entomologists and pest control specialists will survey all islands for the mites as soon as possible. The Plant Quarantine Branch is preparing a quarantine order preventing the interisland movement of bees and beekeeping equipment. In the meantime, beekeepers are being asked not to move bees interisland.

The varroa mite is reddish brown in color with an oval and flattened shape. It is about the size of a pin head and can be detected with the unaided eye. Varroa mites have piercing and sucking mouthparts and feed on the blood of honey bee adults, larvae and pupae. The mites weaken adult bees and cause emerging bees to be deformed. Varroa mites are spread from hive to hive through bee contact.

The varroa mite's natural host is the Asian honey bee, a species that is not extremely affected by the mite. The mite spread through Europe via Russia. In 1987, the varroa mite was discovered in North American bee colonies in Wisconsin and Florida. By 1988, the mite was detected in 12 U.S. states and has since spread throughout the continental U.S. In 2000, the mite was discovered in New Zealand.

Beekeepers who suspect that bees in their hives have the varroa mite are asked to contact HDOA as soon as possible at 973-9530 (Oahu) or the state’s toll-free hotline at 643-PEST (7378).

Viewzone || Comments?