Bee Colony Collapse and Fungus

The New York Times published a fascinating article this week linking damp environments to the dramatic reduction in bee colonies in the last 4 years. The article also points out the "crazy" behavior of the bees shortly before they die.

Since 2006, 20 to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States alone have suffered "colony collapse."

The culprit?

A fungus interacting with a virus. According to a paper published by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana, there are clues as to how the two pathogens work together to kill bees.

"Both the virus and the fungus proliferate in cool, damp weather, and both do their dirty work in the bee gut, suggesting that insect nutrition is somehow compromised."

This is particularly interesting in light of the fact that toxic mold individuals commonly experience digestive problems.

Fungus and viruses often work together in nature, according to the report, and "one answer in protecting bee colonies might be to focus on the fungus — controllable with antifungal agents — especially when the virus is detected."

The researchers, including science team leader Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, remain baffled by the bees' unusual behavior.

"Still unsolved is what makes the bees fly off into the wild yonder at the point of death. One theory, Dr. Bromenshenk said, is that the viral-fungal combination disrupts memory or navigating skills and the bees simply get lost. Another possibility, he said, is a kind of insect insanity."

When I think back to the height of our toxic mold exposure, I can relate to these bees.

I draw my own conclusion when I read this study. If bees can't survive on a chemical-ridden diet in an environment filled with pathogens... what makes us think we can?