This article is reposted from the old WordPress incarnation of Not Exactly Rocket Science. There’s been more work on CCD since, but I’m reposting this mainly because of some interesting follow-up research that will I will post about tomorrow.
In 2006, American and European beekeepers started noticing a strange and worrying trend – their bees were disappearing. Their hives, usually abuzz with activity, were emptying. There were no traces of the workers or their corpses either in or around the ghost hives, which still contained larvae and plentiful stores of food. It seemed that entire colonies of bees had apparently chosen not to be.
The cause of the aptly named ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’, or CCD, has been hotly debated over the last year. Fingers were pointed at a myriad of suspects including vampiric mites, pesticides, electromagnetic radiation, GM crops, climate change and poor beekeeping practices. And as usual, some people denied that there was a problem at all.
But a large team of US scientists led by Diana Cox-Foster and Ian Lipkin have used modern genomics to reveal a new villain in this entomological whodunnit – a virus called Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus or IAPV. By and large, the team found that where there was IAPV, there was CCD. The virus and the affliction were so stongly connected that Cox-Foster and Lipkin estimated that a hive infected with IAPV had a 96% chance of suffering from CCD. Once infected, the chances of a colony collapsing shot up by 65 times.