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Virus May Be Cause of Bee Deaths

An Israeli virus could be the cause of the disappearance of thousands of honeybees.

Nearly a fourth of America's honeybees have disappeared. Further decreases in numbers could have a devastating impact on agriculture. Bees are responsible for pollinating crops that are worth up to $20 billion annually.

Research has shown similarities between Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus and Colony Collapse Disorder. Although nothing concrete has been found, IAPV has moved to the top of the list of possible factors that cause CCD.

Jeff Pettis of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service there are still more questions than answers and a lot of research ahead to figure out why bees are dying.

Scientists think some organism is to blame for CCD, whether it's IAPV or some other virus. They are experimenting with other stress factors to see if they can create the conditions that cause a colony to collapse.

Another possibility that is being investigated is the Australian connection. The U.S. imported packaged bees in 2004 from Australia and disappearing hives were reported soon after. That may be how IAPV was brought into the country.

Israeli researchers have found that some bees have developed resistance to IAPV. Pettis says creating virus-resistant bees, either through genetic-modification or cross breeding is an idea that may prove helpful in the situation.

Pettis believes that CCD is the result of a number of factors and that there isn't a single smoking gun that can fix the situation immediately. He says growers need to manage their hives carefully, paying attention to nutrition, parasites and overall colony health.

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