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An Asian Parasite Maybe why Honey Bees Are Disappearing

By Bob Ewing     Jul 19, 2007 in Environment
An Asian parasite may be the reason why the honey bees have been vanishing in North America and in Europe. A Spanish research team has determined that this parasite is the underlying reason for the mass disappearance.
The reason why honey bees in North America and elsewhere have been vanishing may have been discovered.
The culprit maybe a parasite that is common in Asian bees and which has traveled to Europe and the Americas. This parasite may be behind what has become known as colony collapse disorder.
A Spanish scientist, Mariano Higes, led a research team that has been studying this for years. According to Higes, the parasite that is responsible for millions of bees disappearing is nosema ceranae.
The research team is working at a Spanish government funded apiculture centre in Guadalajara, the province east of Madrid, that is the heartland of Spain's honey industry.
The team has analyzed thousands of samples from stricken hives in many countries. The research began with the premise that pesticides were the cause but soon came to rule that out. The reason for the dismissal of pesticides as the cause is that pesticide traces were present only in a tiny proportion of the samples that were examined.
In addition, there were bee colonies dying that were a considerable distance from any cultivated land so the presence of pesticides is unlikely.
Next, the team eliminated the varroa mite as it was not present in most of the hives that were affected.
A parasite known as nosema apis, which is common in wet weather, was considered to be the guilty party. However, the symptoms were different and the disappearances were happening in dry weather as well as wet. The team then decided to sequence the parasite's DNA. This led to the discovery that it was an Asian variant, nosema ceranae.
"Nosema ceranae is far more dangerous and lives in heat and cold. A hive can become infected in two months and the whole colony can collapse in six to 18 months. We've no doubt at all its nosema ceranae and we think 50 percent of Spanish hives are infected," “Higes,
The parasite has been found in bees from Austria, Slovenia and other parts of Eastern Europe. According to Higes, the parasite crossed the Atlantic and is invading bee hives in Canada and Argentina. Hives from the United States have not been tested.
The treatment is inexpensive and it works, the cost is 1 euro (US$1.4) a hive, used twice a year. However, beekeepers need to be convinced that this parasite is the problem
More about Asian, Parasite, Bee disappearances