Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus
During mid 2007 healthy adult honey bees were found to be deserting their queens and hives, never to return. Sustained research found that the cause was a little-known bug called Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus which sets bees' wings shivering and eventually brings about paralysis, followed by death. This affected up to 90 percent of commercial bees in the US and was also detected in the Australian bees, as well as in two of the four Chinese royal jelly samples. The bug spread to Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Greece, Germany and Poland, and Central and South America. The discovery of this virus has put to rest rampant speculation about the source of the strange collapse in the U.S. bee populations.
Experts feel that honeybees, which have been around for 30 million years, could be extinct in the UK by 2018.
Bees Vital for Food Chain
Bees are vital for the food chain and for this reason this crisis is feared to bring about worse disaster than global warming. Though bees are generally associated with honey, they are far more important for their role in pollinating crops. Without them, nearly 100 major crops worldwide would not be pollinated and would not set fruit. Experts fear threat to a third of the world’s food crops, especially onions, cabbage, almonds, apples, soy beans and most berries and nuts, if bees are killed in this manner. An estimated $2-billion worth of crops in Canada and about $15-billion in the United States depend on honeybees for pollination.
Apart from this, hundreds of millions of dollars are additionally generated through the sale of hive products such as honey, wax, pollen, royal jelly and venom.
Experts also warn that if bees disappear, mankind will not have much time left.
Are Cellphones Killing the Bees?
First identified by scientists in Israel, the virus appears to exist in many parts of the world. Causes attributed have ranged from global warming to cell phone signals. Scientists have been putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops.
Scientists also believe that breeds of nicotine-based pesticides too are responsible for this virus. Many pesticides that are used in bee-pollinated crops are toxic to honey bees. Though these insecticides were meant for other pests, bees became their victims.
Increased stress as a result of industrial-style beekeeping operations in the United States, in which truckloads of hives crisscross the country to pollinate in orchards and farms, has also been considered as one of the causes. There are cases of millions of bees being lumped together, just like chickens and other livestock animals.
All these factors are said to have compromised their immune system to such an extent that they became vulnerable to whatever new infectious agent came along.
When it all Began
A disorder similar to Acute Paralysis Virus first came to light in 1869 when an anonymous author reported loss of bees which left behind hives with plenty of honey. Death was then attributed to lack of pollen, poisonous honey, or a hot summer.
Subsequent losses were recorded in Colorado in 1891 and 1896 where large clusters disappeared or dwindled. Investigations at the time identified various fungi with these collapses.
Between 1905 and 1919 there were three epidemics in which 90% of the honey bee colonies on the Island of Wight in the United Kingdom collapsed. The affected bees lost the power of flying and had to crawl in order to move. Causes were thought to be acarine disease or the honey bee tracheal mite. Researchers also gave starvation as a reason.
In 1910, in the Stawell district of Australia, 59% of colonies were lost and many more were severely weakened. During the 1960s and 70s losses were high in both the USA and Australia. Termed “disappearing syndrome”, the losses were then supposed to be due to dampness, poor nutrition, and stress.
There were heavy losses reported in France during the winters of 1998-1999 and 1999-2000.
It is important to control the virus immediately as there is unlike to be any treatment available for Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus in the near future.