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Fungus, virus suspected in collapse of bee colonies

By Randolph E. Schmid
Associated Press / October 7, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Researchers have a pair of new suspects in the mysterious collapse of honey bee colonies across the country.

The widespread damage to the bees has caused concern because the insects are needed to pollinate scores of crops.

Researchers say samples collected from hives affected by the syndrome indicated the presence of a virus as well as a fungus. The two pathogens were not found in bee colonies not affected by the syndrome, called colony collapse disorder, the researchers reported in yesterday’s edition of the journal PLoS ONE.

“We truly don’t know if these two pathogens cause CCD or whether the colonies with CCD are more likely to succumb to these two pathogens,’’ Jerry J. Bromenshenk of the University of Montana said in a statement.

Previous studies looked at the possibility of multiple viruses found in the colonies as well as potential harm from pesticides.

The new study said the suspect virus is insect iridescent virus, similar to a virus first reported in India 20 years ago, as well as a virus found in moths.

They said it affects the abdomens of bees, and the tissues may take on a bluish-green or purplish hue. The fungus is called Nosema ceranae, and this can sicken bees if they ingest the spores.

Robert Cramer, a pathologist at Montana State University in Bozeman said, “We envision the bee gets an infection from one or the other [pathogen], and this causes the bees to become stressed, which then allows the second infection to come in and more effectively cause disease.’’

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