Monday, October 11, 2010

Why are bees disappearing?

In the last 4 years there has been tremendous decline in bee population across the globe, and scientists are still somewhat confused about the causes responsible for this huge decline. Bees are not only contributing to our environment but also to our economy, and scientists have in fact calculated that bees contribute some £26bn to the global economy.

Hundreds of thousands of bee colonies have disappeared in the last few years, and many scientists believe the main cause might be the use of pesticides, that has gone up in the last couple of years. Entire global agriculture depends on bees to pollinate crops so science need to find answers very fast.

One of the potential answers to such huge decline was also given by a research team lead by professor Jerry Bromenshenk from the University of Montana in Missoula, that includes many prominent virologists and chemists.

They believe the reason for this huge bee loss could be both an insect virus and a fungus. One of the scientists from this team, Shan Bilimoria, a professor and molecular virologist said that there is a clear association of death rates of the bees with the virus and fungus present. But even this association still doesn't prove cause and effect. At least not yet.

Through spectroscopic analysis researchers have found evidence of a moth virus called insect iridescent virus (IIV) 6 and a fungal parasite called Nosema. This found insect virus is very closely related to another virus that wiped out bee populations 20 years ago in India, but in order to prove the effect of this virus, the scientists will have to isolate the virus and fungus from bee colony, and then reinfect with same virus and fungus.

Finding the main cause is the first step towards stopping this huge bee loss.