More on Honeybee CCD Discovery

by Catherine Haug

Earlier this month (Oct 10) I wrote a post: Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder Explained? based on an article in the New York Times, Oct 6, 2010 (1) and his published research article (2). From my post, the latest research by Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk from UM points to:

A lethal combination of a virus (Invertebrate Iridescent Virus or IIV) and a fungal parasite (Nosema ceranae). The bees are able to fight off an infection of either one of these, but when both are present, the bees succumb and die. This deadly combo was found in “virtually all of the bees from CCD colonies” sampled from widely dispersed USA hives from 2006 through 2009.

Conflict of Interest?

Now it comes to light that Dr. Bromenshenk has a conflict of interest that was not disclosed when he published his findings. He received a huge grant from Bayer Crop Science, a company under pressure of lawsuits from beekeepers over the rampant use of pesticides, and specifically neonicotinoids manufactured by Bayer (see Fortune Magazine: What a scientist didn’t tell the New York Times about his study on bee deaths (3)).

I’m sure we’ll hear more about this in the future. Meanwhile, there’s a point I’d like to make about disease in general (not just in bees).

What really causes disease?

The current widely held “germ theory” of infectious disease holds that such disease is caused by organisms like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites that take up residence in the host, weakening defenses and leading to the symptoms of the disease. Certainly it is somehow comforting to believe that these organisms ’cause’ disease, because it comes with the hope that we can conquer the organism and eradicate the disease through medicine.

But this is really like the old philosophy question: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

There is another school of thought that believes that the infection by germs happens AFTER the diseased state begins. In other words, the immune system is weakened, giving opportunity for the germ to take up residence and produce the symptoms of disease. In this line of thought, one must look for what caused the weakening of the immune system for the cause of the disease.

Back to honeybees: What is it that weakens their immune system so that they cannot fend off the double infection of the virus and the fungus? Perhaps it is the pesticide after all!



2 Responses to “More on Honeybee CCD Discovery”

  1. VeronicaHonthaas says:

    Nice short article. I am so glad you posted it because the concept of compromised immune systems will be a major point of my bee talk in February. I am glad folks will be thinking along those lines already. Veronica

  2. Catherine says:

    Veronica is referring to her upcoming presentation on Regression Beekeeping on February 23, 2011. Watch for the event notice. And meanwhile, give some thought to a backyard hive of your own. The more of us who keep bees, the better chance that some will survive the CCD epidemic to create more and stronger hives.

    For more information on starting your own hive, contact the Flathead Beekeeper’s Club). Check out their Facebook page or their Google Groups page (links to these are in the right hand column under Gardening & Ag Links on our home page). Also see their Bee Links page.