So Aussie bees are off the hook, then?

You might recall that back in September, I published a podcast episode on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) — a malady that has been wreaking some serious havoc on honeybee colonies in the U.S. and Europe. The episode was prompted by a rather breathless press release, unveiling a study that purported to explain CCD as the end-result of an infection with Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), apparently brought to the U.S. by bees imported from Australia to boost already suffering colonies in the U.S. Not being an apiarist myself, I could only say that this sounded promising, but very preliminary.

In the meantime, I received some email that cast very serious doubt on the methodology used in the study. I was trying to confirm the information in that email when more news hit the street about a week ago (sorry, I’ve been really really busy at home) that puts this all in a new light.

To make a somewhat long story short(er), the original study stated that IAPV was seen in nearly all the suffering colonies that its authors looked at, none of the healthy ones, and none in the U.S. before 2005 (when Australian bees started being imported into the U.S.). The email that I received asserted that this correlation was (at least) partially due to sloppy work in defining colonies as “healthy” or “ill.” Now a new study reveals that IAPV actually has been in the U.S. since at least 2002 — although nobody yet knows whether or not Australian and pre-2005 U.S. bees had the same strain of the virus.

So again, let me remind everybody (since the media seem prone to forget this point) — when you’re dealing with results from a single unconfirmed study, caution is HIGHLY advised. What’s really needed are multiple controlled studies in which honeybees with known health are exposed to a variety of potential pathogens to see just what is really killing them. Anything short of that is just an interesting bit of news.

Oh, well — on a positive note, at least it seems that commercial agriculture in the U.S. had a decent year, CCD or not.

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