[permaculture] [Fwd: [SANET-MG] Colony collapse disorder/Nosema ceranae]
Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lflj at intrex.net
Fri Jul 27 16:22:53 EDT 2007
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [SANET-MG] Colony collapse disorder/Nosema ceranae
Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2007 08:51:25 -0700
From: Misha Gale-Sinex <mgs2369 at COMCAST.NET>
Reply-To: Sustainable Agriculture Network Discussion Group <SANET-MG at LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU>
To: SANET-MG at LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU
(Hey, Matthew [Shepard]--are you here for this one? Can you comment
on this matter on SANET?)
Last week or so Sean and Neal posted Reuters' item via Planet Ark on
the /Nosema ceranae/ hypothesis as one researcher in Spain is telling
Be aware, all, as you put this item into context in your thinking
that /Nosema ceranae/ as "the cause" is far from the consensus.
This particular scientist's perspective--that /N. ceranae/ is THE
smoking gun--is at odds with the conclusions and hypotheses of the
community of CCD researchers who have been studying Colony Collapse
since the mid-1990s (and some before then, in the case of the varroa
parasite). A major meeting of these folks happened in April in DC.
Here's one account of that gathering, from the /LA Times/:
The evolutionary biologists have been onto this for awhile (that is,
it's not "recent headlines"). See for example this article from the
2005 meeting of the Society for Invertebrate Pathology:
Penn State reported on colony collapses as early as the mid-90s; see
this piece from 1998:
Of course populations of bees and other pollinators have been
plummeting since 1971, due to a combination of human causes.
Looking for or asserting a single cause may mesh with the newsmedia's
love of simple storylines--the sudden foreign invader causing havoc
with a weapon. But it's not good population ecology. Neither is the
perspective that this particular kind of collapse came out of nowhere
suddenly. It didn't.
Penn State entomologist Diana Cox-Foster and others are not at all
sure that this protozoan constitutes the single-element/Asian
Invasion cause. This May 4, 2007, interview with Jerry Hayes, the
Florida Department of Agriculture's hugely respected head apiarist
and, like Cox-Foster, one of the nation's and the world's experts on
bee colonies, is quite good on the issues, and on how it is that
newsmedia translate complex science into Smoking Gun myths. It refers
to the UCSF researchers whose headlines earlier this year also put
the issue into a single-focus context flawed in its reasoning.
>It's kind of interesting that all of the samples we've taken and
>even all the samples of even healthy colonies all show Nosema
>ceranae. We can't find another Nosema - Nosema apis. All honey bees
>we have examined have Nosema ceranae, but only some are from Colony
>Collapse Disorder hives. And there is a treatment for Nosema ceranae
>that beekeepers use. So, Nosema ceranae certainly is a stressor, but
>it doesn't seem to be the smoking gun that we were looking for.
>THE FACT THAT BOTH HEALTHY AND COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER BEES WOULD
>HAVE NOSEMA FITS AGAIN INTO [Penn State entomology] PROF. [Diana]
>COX-FOSTER'S HYPOTHESIS THAT THIS WAS A SYMPTOM OF IMMUNE COLLAPSE.
>Yes. It seems to be a stronger hypothesis as the days go by that
>something is affecting the bees' immune system and many of these
>things we are finding, which are normal pathogens are proliferating
>because the bees' immune system cannot handle them.
>IT SOUNDS AS IF THE CALIFORNIA [UC-San Francisco] RESEARCHERS HAD
>NOT STUDIED THE COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER SCIENCE GROUP'S WORK FROM
>DECEMBER 2006 ONWARD. THEY MADE A LEAP BASED ON A FINDING AS OPPOSED
>TO PLACING THE FINDING IN THE CONTEXT OF, LET'S SAY, THE IDEA OF
>SUPPRESSED IMMUNE SYSTEMS MAKING THE BEES GENERALLY VULNERABLE TO
>Yes. They made a leap. We just need to collaborate more so we can
>move ahead and see what we can find.
Source (reformatted above for readability):
This piece from the UK /Guardian/, about 3 weeks ago, is much better
than the Reuters/Ark piece:
See also this interview with Jerry Hayes from the syndicated radio
program Living on Earth:
Cox-Foster's testimony to the House ag committee subcommittee on
organic ag and horticulture appears here:
She offered this prior to the big headlines reporting that /N.
ceranae/ was THE cause, and prior to the DC meeting in April.
I first became aware of the Penn State work on insect immunity in the
early '90s, as part of diggings into organophosphate poisoning. The
highly evolutionarily conserved nature of neurological, immune, and
endocrine systems should be the basis of every decision we make, as
humans, with our technologies. For our self-interest if nothing else.
But we don't seem to be learning that.
I trust everyone here is aware that when we speak of insects' "immune
systems" we are talking about biological/chemical systems that are
nothing like mammalian ones. For example, insects do not have (or
need) helper cells, T cells, lymphocytes (like our friends the
neutrophils), and antibodies (no immunoglobulins!). They have no
"immune memory," and they often function through encapsulating or
lysing the "invader."
Honeybees are known to synthesize antibacterial proteins whose
mechanism is electrostatic, rather than bacteriocidal.
Here's a pointer to an early (1989) article on that, via PubMed:
I believe this is one reason that the cell phone hypothesis was
floated: that the intense microwave electromagnetic radiation from
cell towers might be affecting the electrostatic charge, and
immunocapacity, of those relatively simple peptides. We have only the
weakest understanding of the electrical nature of living systems.
Plus we have a lot invested in not understanding that, given our
orgiastic greed for concentrated, accelerated energy forms.
If I were going to venture a guess on the mechanism, or the system
collapse, we are witnessing in honeybees, it is something we could
summarize as a problem in energetics in general. That is, if insects
are multiply stressed, and must multiply address "invading"
substances or microbes, after awhile their cells will run out of
energy to do its basic functions.
This is why I am always returning to the energy issue in sustainable
ag. Energetics as a way of viewing eco-catastrophe (or cascading
failure) moves people out of many of the common errors in reasoning,
like the newspapers' Lone Gunman fetish.
Mike Lanier presented the most nascent point in his posting of 7/11,
when he observed that the real issue at the root of sustainability is
how we humans relate ourselves to energy flows around us.
Unfortunately, agricultural civilizations specialize in rush and
accumulation. They are entirely centered on the human domination
ideology of forcing natural systems to perform faster, and more, so
that we may continue going forth, multiplying, and growing. (Which at
bottom is a religious ideology.)
This cancerous state of being has been quite the joyride for the past
6,000-10,000 years. But it cannot continue. The question is: how do
we want it to end? In responsible scaling back? Or in crashes?
Alas, I fear that most people want the latter; in fact their entire
psychological and religious constitution revolves around the dream of
driving right into the wall, and being saved from the outcomes, never
No generation ever has had more of an opportunity to learn about, and
from, this, as we face peak oil and the fragmenting of the fossil
energy economies to which we have accustomed ourselves. I don't have
a lot of hope that people will voluntarily, pro-actively evolve,
however. From my observations over the past 7 years of living carbon
neutral, nobody wants to be the first to give up what they imagine to
be privileges. From my observations, only one in a million people
even want to hear that it's possible to make these changes.
But back to bees.
Here is a wonderful article from researchers at the University of
Turku that is a good model of how biologists and ecologists frame,
view, and study insect immunity issues:
Note the last line of the abstract:
>This study demonstrates that natural variation within a food plant
>species has an effect on the innate immune system of an herbivorous
Consider the restricted, even monocrop, main diets--of
human-cultivated food plants--that constitute the fare of your
average pollination-worker /Apis/. This is the sort of thing Diana
Cox-Foster is talking about, when she talks about the extreme
complexity of potential "causes" of colony collapse disorder.
And consider reviewing Raoul Robinson's work, for the difference
between vertical and horizontal resistance in plant breeding. That
model has much to teach us on so many levels.
An inordinate fondness for beetles.
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