Image credit: Chelsea Bay Wills
It wouldn't be the first time that researchers have claimed to solve the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) mystery. In fact, everything from CO2 confusing bees' social structure to cell phone towers messing with bees' navigation systems has been cited as a possible cause of CCD and mysterious honeybee declines. Now a team of military scientists and entymologists may have achieved a major breakthrough. According to the New York Times, a collaboration between military scientists and acadmic researchers has uncovered a combination, or tag-team, of a virus and a fungus which seem to be working in unison to cause the problem. Because CCD causes bees to fly off one-by-one, rather than die off in the hive, researchers have been hampered in their efforts to perform bee autopsies. Nevertheless, the team managed to find the fungus-virus combination in every CCD-impacted colony they examined:
"Dr. Bromenshenk's team at the University of Montana and Montana State University in Bozeman, working with the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center northeast of Baltimore, said in their jointly written paper that the virus-fungus one-two punch was found in every killed colony the group studied. Neither agent alone seems able to devastate; together, the research suggests, they are 100 percent fatal."
It's not clear yet just how the two agents work together to cause such devastating results, but that is part of the next phase of research. The team will also be looking at how environmental factors like drought or extreme cold may exacerbate the problem.
Beekeepers (and bees) are not out of the woods yet, but this may be a faint glimpse of a path.
More on Colony Collapse Disorder and Beekeeping
Are Cell Phone Towers Honeybees' Next Threat?
Bee Mystery Solved?
The Latest Buzz on Disappearing Honeybees: Some Improvement