March 4th, 2014

4 Mar

My friend Lori Weidenhammer sent me a link to a disturbing new trend in the bee world.

It is a serious thing when diseases jump from one species to another.  With bee diseases there are a number that are related.  Chalk Brood for example occurs in Osmia lignaria, the Blue Orchard Bee, and in honeybees.  Not the same species of disease, technically mason bees cannot get the honeybee version of Chalk Brood or vice versa.

This latest thing is not like that at all.

Last spring a friend and mentor asked me to investigate a few dead Osmia lignaria, the Blue Orchard Bee, she found in her orchard.  They had deformed wings, vestigial.

Hmmm, as a beekeeper I am quite familiar with Deformed Wing Virus in honeybees but I had never heard of anything like this in any other bee.  After a bit of digging I found the contact information for the National Bee Diagnostic Centre at Beaverlodge in Alberta and sent them a sample of mason bee cocoons from my own operation that failed to emerge.

Turns out they had Deformed Wing Virus plus Acute Israeli Paralysis Virus, both previously only associated with honeybees.  To the best of my knowledge these are not new mason bee versions but are in fact honeybee diseases found in our beloved native bee.

Thinking about this I did collect a few bumblebee workers I found walking on the ground last summer when they should have been flying.  Sick bees are unable to fly, especially if they have a Paralysis Virus or suffering from DWV.  Even if physically they show no signs of deformity or paralysis, a strong indication of viral infection is the inability to fly.

Blessed Bee Farm may partner with the National Bee Diagnostic Centre in a study of the transmission of these diseases.  I haven’t heard back from them for ages now and don’t know their plans.  I will post something when I know something.

One of the mysteries is transmission: how are these diseases getting passed from honeybees to mason bees and what is the mechanism of transmission in mason bees?  I’m hoping that the NBDC will help to shine a light on this issue.  The cure is to prevent transmission.

Lori Weidenhammer is a very inspirational performance artist, educator and writer.  Check out her blog.  Lots to discover.


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