Randy Olivers Sick Bees Conclusion

The June 2011 edition of the American Bee Journal has Randy Oliver’s final article on Sick Bees.

Some important points I’ll quote:

  • “We think of honey bee viruses as being host specific, but in actuality they are rather generic, being able to to infect related bees, wasps and ants, in some cases varroa mites and perhaps even flowering plants!”
  • “… Dr. Diana Cox-Foster’s Penn State team(Singh 2010) detected “bee viruses” in eleven other non-Apis hymenopteran species, ranging from solitary bees to bumble bees and wasps. This finding has profound implications!”
  • “In nature, pollinator species compete for the same pollen and nectar resources. If any species starts to dominate the landscape, it is then more likely to suffer from epidemics of viruses and other parasites.”
  • “Pollen pellets from several uninfected forager bees were detected with virus, indicating that pollen itself may harbor viruses. The viruses in the pollen and honey stored in the hive were demonstrated to be infective…”
  • “the viruses may actually be inside the pollen, implying that the viruses might replicate in the plants themselves!”
  • “We are trying to shoehorn a wild animal into an intense agricultural management system.”
  • “When one makes their living with bees, the financial constraints of the economy of scale butt head-on into the biological reality of infectious disease epidemiology.”

Randy’s Sick Bee articles accurately describe what my bees experienced and what I have seen in the wild bee population over the last three years. Here’s what I surmise:

  • Central Wyoming’s small agricultural areas are grossly overstocked with migratory beehives
  • The limited water and plant resources force a fierce competition between kept bees and native pollinators
  • Those migrating beekeepers have hauled in, saturated and continually replenished the virus cloud
  • I did my part in spreading the viruses by keeping my hives in one of those migratory yards while I was in Florida. Then I moved them out to new location
  • That cloud infected honeybees, associated wild bee and ant species. And even the limited plant resources in the area
  • After the virus cloud reached a critical constituency and density, last year’s collapse occurred

So, what can be done? Randy has some practical applications I’ll quote from:

  • “… pollen, unless irradiated, is a likely vector for insect and plant viruses worldwide. It is unwise to feed non-irradiated pollen!”
  • “… findings confirm that viruses can remain infective in the beebread of deadouts. Unfortunately, short of radiation, there are no antiviral treatments that … will penetrate the beebread.”
  • “…mix it up in large operations. Avoid having all colonies in a yard coming from the same mother.”
  • “The midwinter period… when beekeepers are trying to stimulate hives sitting in forage poor holding yards, is stressful to the bees, and the situation is ripe for a pathogen epidemic to take off.”
  • “Manage each yard of bees as its own population, and be careful about mixing sick yards with healthy ones.”
  • “Look for isolated locations and watch out for who you set down next to!”
  • “A number of beekeepers have found that it is worthwhile to reduce the numbers of colonies per yard…”
  • “… one should be judicious about the cost/benefit analysis of prophylactic treatments. Such treatments no only cost money, but confer metabolic costs on the bees, and may disrupt the balance of beneficial endosymbionts that normally suppress viruses, AFB, nosema, and chalkbrood.”
  • “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities. It’s up to us, as beekeepers, to work with nature to resolve the problem that we accidentally created…”

-bW

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