Thursday, September 20, 2007

Closer to an answer...

Researchers are increasingly confident that IAPV (Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus) is a key indicator, if not the actual cause of Colony Collapse Disorder.
The Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health announced a study linking CCD to Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. I haven’t found a link to the study itself, which is published in the journal Science, but ScienceDaily has published a summery. The authors of the study claim that the presence of IAPV predicts CCD in a colony with 96% accuracy. In other words, if someone selected a honey bee colony in the US and all they told you about it was whether or not it had IAPV, not how big it was, where it was, what kinds of bees they were, you tell them if it had collapsed or not. If you did this 1000 times and had average luck, you’d be right 960 times.

But we don’t know if it actually causes CCD

That kind of accuracy is pretty amazing and makes IAPV a “significant marker” for CCD, but it doesn’t mean that it causes CCD. It might even be the other way around; CCD weakens a colony that was otherwise able to fend off IAPV, allowing the virus to infect the colony. Or something else causes both CCD and facilitates an IAPV infection. [More]

But here is where it slides into ideological carping. Organic beekeepers would really like an answer that show current commercial beekeeping practices to be at fault which would in essence force the industry round to their way of thinking, and not coincidentally, buttress the entire organic philosophy (which is having a hard time finding evidence of their more extravagant claims).

The next-to-last thing they want to see is a solution involving more advanced science, such as a counter agent for IAPV of some sort that neatly ends the problem. Organic advocates want "process" to be the solution.
Who should be surprised that the major media reports forget to tell us that the dying bees are actually hyper-bred varieties that we coax into a larger than normal body size? It sounds just like the beef industry. And, have we here a solution to the vanishing bee problem? Is it one that the CCD Working Group, or indeed, the scientific world at large, will support? Will media coverage affect government action in dealing with this issue?

These are important questions to ask. It is not an uncommonly held opinion that, although this new pattern of bee colony collapse seems to have struck from out of the blue (which suggests a triggering agent), it is likely that some biological limit in the bees has been crossed. There is no shortage of evidence that we have been fast approaching this limit for some time. [More]
They could well be right. A combination of stressors and weakened immune systems is high on the list of causes.

But science gets done badly if we decide the answer before we do the experiment. And my guess is we could see a decidedly non-organic solution to this problem.

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