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September 7, 2007
About those Billions of Dead Honey Bees....
You have probably heard the news story about billions of honey bees mysteriously dying off over the last few months. The situation is actually quite serious. Honey bees pollinate billions of dollars worth of food crops while also supplying the US with honey - a key ingredient in hundreds of processed foods. But something was killing them off at alarming rates - entire colonies being extinguished for no apparent reason.
Science may have found the answer:
Colonies of honeybees (an invasive exotic species) have been dying off in the last year. Some ideological environmentalists--the Sierra Club--attempted to blame biotech crops as the cause. However, as I pointed out, even the research the Sierra Club cited indicated that biotech crops were unlikely to be the cause for colony collapse disorder. The full article in Nature Magazine reveals that there is hope for the future. Apparently some bees are naturally resistant to the virus which means new colonies can be started. It will probably take a few years for the industry to recover. But at least children can now relax; there will be enough honey to put on their peanut butter sandwiches in the future.
Today, Science is publishing a fascinating metagenomic study which strongly suggests that a new viral infection is killing off bees, specifically, Israeli acute paralysis virus. The researchers ground up bees and then screened all the DNA they found, including DNA from any disease organisms that might be infecting bees.