Colony Collapse Disorder Still Baffling Scientists

Around the world, bees continue to disappear and scientists still don't quite know why. This week regulatory agents, bee keepers, agricultural chemical companies, and researchers from around the world gathered in State College to pool their knowledge on the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder. WPSU's Emily Reddy reports.

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Open: Around the world, bees continue to disappear and scientists still don't quite know why. This week regulatory agents, bee keepers, agricultural chemical companies, and researchers from around the world gathered in State College to pool their knowledge on the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder. WPSU's Emily Reddy reports.

REDDY: Half a dozen conference attendees are using the last bit of their lunch break to check out the bees in the flowerbeds outside the Nittany Lion Inn.

SPEVAK: A lot of honey bees here right now and a lot of large carpenter bees...But there are some small ones in there too. There are some megacylids, there's two different species of leaf cutter, I've seen.

REDDY: Ed Spevak is from St. Louis. Crystal Watrous from Utah. Researchers from Washington DC, Canada and England round out the group of bee-watchers. They've all come to State College for the first ever International Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health and Policy. Stuart Roberts is checking out the bees in a bed of purple flowers.

ROBERTS: The only thing thatís significantly different here is that we donít have carpenter bees in UK. The things that look like queen bees in here are actually carpenter bees. Hereís one just down here. A gigantic great big thing.

REDDY: Roberts is the bee gawker from England. Heís from the University of Reading, just south of London. Heís been invited to the conference to talk about what Europeans are doing, which includes getting the general public
involved in research.

ROBERTS: We have a very longstanding tradition of public involvement in natural history data gathering and that hasnít really gotten off the ground here in such a big way.

REDDY: Roberts says heíll take back to England information about the conservation of wild bees.

REDDY: Lunchtime is over and inside Penn State University Park entomologist Diana Cox-Foster takes the podium.

COX-FOSTER: What Iíd like to tell you about are these viruses that are present in bees. These are the RNA viruses. There have been more than 18 different viruses described in honey bees. And more are being added to the known viruses.

REDDY: She clicks through a PowerPoint presentation to a drawing of a honeybee, with its internal organs mapped out. Sheís talking bee diseases, like sacbrood virus, deformed wing virus...

COX-FOSTER: We also have these other viruses, black queen cell virus, Kashmir bee virus, acute bee paralysis virus, Israeli acute bee paralysis virus has been detected here in the US, and we have some findings of chronic bee paralysis virus. But only in a few colonies in the US. Itís not like we find researchers reporting in Europe.

REDDY: Cox-Foster studies what impact these viruses have on bees. Recently, she tried to recreate colony collapse disorder. She put a colony of bees in a greenhouse, then gave some of the bees a disease to see what they would
do. The infected bees left the colony and died out near the walls of the
greenhouse.

COX-FOSTER: Recent studiesÖsuccumbing out there.

REDDY: Cox-Foster says she and other researchers are pretty sure
Colony Collapse Disorder has more causes than just disease.

COX-FOSTER: We think thereís gotta be additional stressors. And whatís coming out,
especially at this meeting here thus far, is that probably key stressors are
pesticides. That the bees are encountering many more pesticides than we
ever imagined.

REDDY: Farmers use the pesticides to protect their crops; homeowners to keep
their yards weed and pest free. And the bees who come looking for food
find a lot of pesticides as well.

REDDY: Cox-Foster says another problem is that thereís less food available for the
bees than there was in the past.

COX-FOSTER: In large scale agriculture and also in our own gardens and roadside
areas weíve gotten rid of a lot of the weedy plants which are the flowers
that provide the essential nectar and pollen for these bees.

REDDY: Research released earlier this year by the Apiary Inspectors of America
and the USDA found the United States lost a third of its honeybee colonies
this past winter.

REDDY: Cox-Foster says we should all be concerned. She says one out of every
three bites of food we take is thanks to a bee or other pollinator.

COX-FOSTER: One of our experts, May barenbaumÖscurvey because no vitamin C.

REDDY: Attendees at the conference certainly understand how serious the problem
is. Cox-Foster hopes this gathering leaves them better prepared to
collaborate and figure out just whatís causing Colony Collapse Disorder.
Iím Emily Reddy, WPSU.