07 June, 2012

We need to talk... about the birds and bees

Honeybee lesions due to Verroa spp mites
We all like to believe that there is a conspiracy against the planet, that HAARP and other covert technologies (such as GMO insecticidal plants) have been responsible for the global assault on bee populations, but sometimes less sinister plots are involved. In this particular case, a sinister foe has been identified by mainstream science (which sometimes gets it right). This foe has a particularly unattractive appearance, and had a personal preference for avoiding detection by its host. Its malevolent actions involve destruction of overt defence mechanisms and employing ancillary combatants such as viruses to augment its attack against it quarry. Known as the Verroa mite (Varroa destructor), this blood-sucking parasite has reached endemic proportions globally and must be captured and neutralised.
Varroa destructor

The effect of this parasite utilises symbiotic viruses (e.g. Deformed Wing Virus and Acute Paralysis Virus) which infect the skin of honeybees and, unable to fly, invariably die as a consequence. Symbiotic relationships between parasites and cohort agents such as bacteria and viruses has been studied for many years in most bees and is well reported in the scientific literature.

What is peculiar is why now? Why has this disease become prominent at this time? We have little evidence to determine whether such plagues on bees has occurred in the past, so we can only assume that it is perhaps a periodical process resulting in global depopulations of bee colonies. The other alternative, more sinister to be sure is that bees or bee viruses have been genetically modified. It has recently been reported that there is nothing to stop someone from “helping along” bee evolution to produce bees resistant to current virus strains or even specific pesticides ( such as Pesticide-Ready Bees from Monsanto) or using GMO plant seeds containing pesticides which disrupt honeybee immunity.

Whether this spells the end of global populations of bees or not is unknown, but we will find out within the next 2 - 3 years. If it is an extinction event, humanity as we know it is doomed, for bees are an intimate aspect of plant fertilisation, and without them, most global plants would die, and without a plant-based food source, most mammals are doomed, including humans.

When it comes to resolving this problem, the use of natural plant extracts or their products as ecofriendly biodegradable agents could be of high value for the control of Varroa mite. However, although the destruction of mites is easily managed on an individual basis, treatment of global honeybee populations is impossible. An alternate method is to disseminate a targeted vaccines against the Varroa virus, but this is problematic both because of cost as well as complications of resistance and creation of new strains of Verroa virus.

So, essentially, humanity's hands are tied. Can honeybees and their angels effect a solution for this life threatening event, or will humanity find a cure. The race is on. The cost of failure is nothing less than extinction of all life on planet earth.

Though a scientist at heart, I'm still putting my faith in evolutionary technology (ET for short).