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The full text of the Senators' letter to Secretary Johanns is as follows:
The Honorable Michael Johanns
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
Dear Mr. Secretary:
America's beekeepers and their bees are an indispensable pillar of U.S. Agriculture. Our nation's beekeepers provide essential pollination services for over 90 different food, seed and fiber crops, contributing over $14 billion of added agricultural value as documented by a Cornell University study in 2000. Crops that depend upon or benefit from honey bee pollination include alfalfa, almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, carrots, cherries, citrus, cotton, cranberries, kiwis, plums, pumpkins, seed crops, soybeans, squash, sunflowers and watermelons.
As you are no doubt aware, a new and unexplained condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder ("CCD") is decimating bee colonies through the United States. CCD is causing some beekeepers to lose upwards of 90 percent of their bee colonies, and is causing serious reductions in the supplies of bees for essential commercial pollination. These severe losses are in addition to other problems such as higher production costs, mite infestations and unfairly traded imports that have been making it very difficult for beekeepers to operate profitably. If these alarming trends are allowed to continue, they will place at risk in excess of $14 billion in annual U.S. farm output that depends on bee pollination. Ultimately, the shortage of pollination services could impact the supply of healthful and affordable food for U.S. consumers.
We are writing on an urgent basis to ask that you provide us with an expedited report on the immediate steps that the Department is and will be taking to determine the causes of CCD, and to develop appropriate countermeasures for this serious disorder. In particular, we ask for a specific explanation of how the Department plans to utilize its existing resources and capabilities, including its four Agricultural Research Service honeybee research labs, and to work with other public and private sector enterprises in combating CCD. We also request that the Department identify any additional resources and capabilities that would be necessary or useful in its efforts to stop the spread of CCD.
In addition, we would also ask that you outline the Department's long-term plans to help restore the health of the U.S. beekeeping industry, including implementation of a crop insurance program for beekeepers that Congress authorized in 2002.
We look forward to receiving your report and any recommendations on this urgent matter for U.S. agricultural producers and American consumers.
Source: Senator Hillary Clinton
Which is why beekeepers from California to Virginia are scratching their heads at the Bush administration's proposal to close three of the four Department of Agriculture bee research laboratories, including the first, opened in the 1890s in Chevy Chase and moved to Beltsville in 1939.
To save money and avoid possible duplication, the president has proposed closing the bee labs at Beltsville, Baton Rouge, La., and Tucson. The laboratory at Weslaco, Tex., would remain open. Funding would be reduced from $5.7 million to $2.5 million, and the number of positions cut from 21 to 9.
"We certainly recognize the concern, but at the same time we have to reflect some national priorities right now," said Alisa Harrison, spokeswoman for Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman.
Originally posted by Matyas
This is just a thought, but what if Morgellons disease is playing a role?
Originally posted by JacKatMtn
I have to do some more checking to see if this bee lab proposed closings actually occurred, but it appears this is mystery has been going on alot longer than we know.
Upgrading the honey bee genome sequence-pdf
Honey bees (Apis mellifera, A.m.), insects endowed with great cognitive and social abilities and amenable to
molecular, genetic, neural, and ecological manipulation, provide an important model for understanding and
improving human health. The Honey Bee Genome Project (HBGP) has successfully organized a large and
diverse research community around the bee model. With 7.5x genomic sequence coverage and a robust
assembly carried out at the Baylor College of Medicine NHGRI Sequencing Center, and gene-prediction
strategies based on orthology, transcript evidence and de novo models, A.m. is able to fill a central role in
research on diverse issues related to behavior, development, reproduction, and immunity.
Apiculture Research Will Save Honeybee And Pollination Industries, Cornell Entomologists Predict
Despite dramatic losses in wild honeybees and in coloniesmaintained by hobbyist beekeepers, Cornell University apiculturists say thepollination needs of commercial agriculture in the United States are beingmet -- for now -- by commercial beekeepers, although their supplies areprecarious.
"Parasitic mite and mite-related diseases have caused the death of mostwild honeybees, and left the commercial colonies at tremendous risk," saidNicholas W. Calderone, head of the university's Dyce Laboratory for HoneyBee Studies and an assistant professor of entomology in the College ofAgriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell. Calling the Varroa mite "thegreatest threat to beekeeping," Calderone said beekeepers have only oneregistered chemical (Apistan) to control Varroa mites, "and European miteshave already become resistant to that chemical, so we must assume the samething will happen in the U.S."
Where Have All The Honeybees Gone? UD 'Bee Guy' Asks Why--From America To The Amazon
Well-meaning South American bee breeders also brought the Africanized or"killer" bee to Brazil, Caron says. And, the varroa mite may have hitched a ridefrom Japan to South America, then hopped on the backs of bees headed for theUnited States, appearing in the United States in 1987.
"Our bees had little natural resistance to this imported mite," he says, "and losses started showing up immediately, particularly over the winters, when bees are clustered together with their honey."...
...Surprisingly, the varroa mite lives on killer bees, too, but "doesn't seem to cause any problems in tropical regions," Caron says. He's quick to caution, however, that intentionally importing killer bees to Delaware or any other cool-weather regions would be "an extremely bad idea."
Google Video Link
But while other states are seeing a drop in bees and honey production, Johnson says his business has recovered from last year's losses.
“This year they were great bees, so we're able to make our increase this year and get our number of colonies back up,” said Johnson.
Johnson believes the bees have a way of going away but somehow returning in their own time.
Idaho is one of the few states that did not see colonies collapse this year.
In fact, honey prices are up 14 percent here, and production is up 19 percent in the state.
Originally posted by Muaddib
If the problem was "cell phones" or "predators" why are some places recovering their populations of bees?
Bees Disappearing Nationwide. Thune Seeks Answers on Bee Plague ... The queen and a handful of workers are left behind.
Originally posted by Muaddib
Pesticides would get taken back to the beehive and the queen should be dying too, but that's not the case, only the workers are dissapearing once they leave the beehives.
Since the late 1970s, the amount of solar radiation the sun emits, during times of quiet sunspot activity, has increased by nearly .05 percent per decade, according to a NASA funded study.
"This trend is important because, if sustained over many decades, it could cause significant climate change," said Richard Willson, a researcher affiliated with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University's Earth Institute, New York. He is the lead author of the study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.
"Historical records of solar activity indicate that solar radiation has been increasing since the late 19th century. If a trend, comparable to the one found in this study, persisted throughout the 20th century, it would have provided a significant component of the global warming the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports to have occurred over the past 100 years," he said.
NARRATOR: Beneath the South Atlantic, Jeremy has found clear evidence for a region of magnetic anomalies, places were the field has already started to reverse. And these anomalies are growing.
JEREMY BLOXHAM: As we get into the beginning of the 20th century, we see the emergence of a new patch of reverse flux, a region where the field lines, instead of coming out of the core, are looping back into the core. And that patch then drifts towards the west, hooking up with this other patch of reverse flux to create a large region of what we call the "South Atlantic anomaly," where the field is about 30 percent weaker. And that patch has grown substantially during the last hundred years in particular. So one question we're all asking ourselves at the moment is, "Is the Earth's magnetic field about to flip?"
NARRATOR: In a region of the core 2,000 miles beneath the South Atlantic, the magnetic currents have reversed direction, canceling out the main field, causing its strength to decline. If things continue like this, then we could experience a magnetic phenomenon the Earth has not seen for 780,000 years, a complete flip of the entire global field.
Bee colonies were fed the pesticide in a manner that mimicked contact in an agricultural setting. Adult bees and developing larva were exposed to spinosad in pollen. The bees’ foraging ability on an array of ‘complex’ artificial flowers made of centrifuge tubes was then evaluated. High levels of spinosad residues (about 10 times what bees should experience in the environment) caused rapid colony death. Colonies exposed to more realistic levels of spinosad in pollen did not show any lethal effects and only minimal immediate colony health effects.
However, bees that were fed realistic levels of spinosad during larval development were slower foragers. They took longer to access complex flowers, resulting in longer handling times and lower foraging rates. The bees also displayed “trembling”, which impaired their ability to land on the flowers and enter the flower tubes.
Development of Spinosad
Against lepidoptera targets the activity values for spinosad and cypermethrin generally overlap. It is extremely exciting to have this level of activity coupled with large margins of selectivity, for predacious insects, which are an important component of IPM programs. The topical acute activity of spinosad against honeybees is less than 1 µg per bee which places spinosad in the highly toxic to bees category of the EPA. However, once residues have dried completely, toxicity of foraging bees is considered negligible (Mayer and Lunden, 1998). There are minimal safety precautions and preharvest and reentry intervals for this reduced risk product.
Mystery causes billions of bees not to be
In the late 1990s, French beekeepers reported large losses of their bees and complained about the use of imidacloprid, sold under the brand name Gaucho. The chemical, while not killing the bees outright, was causing them to be disoriented and stay away from their hives, leading them to die of exposure to the cold, French researchers later found. The beekeepers labeled the syndrome "mad bee disease."
The French government banned the pesticide in 1999 for use on sunflowers, and later for corn, despite protests by the German chemical giant Bayer, which has said its internal research showed the pesticide was not toxic to bees. Subsequent studies by independent French researchers have disagreed with Bayer. Alison Chalmers, an eco-toxicologist for Bayer CropScience, said at the meeting Monday that bee colonies had not recovered in France as beekeepers had expected. "These chemicals are not being used anymore," she said of imidacloprid, "so they certainly were not the only cause."
Among the pesticides being tested in the American bee investigation, the neonicotinoids group "is the No. 1 suspect," Mullin said. He hoped results of the toxicology screening would be ready within a month.
A team of scientist led by the National Institute of Beekeeping in Bologna, Italy, found that pollen obtained from seeds dressed with imidacloprid contains significant levels of the insesticide, and suggested that the polluted pollen was one of the main causes of honeybee colony collapse . Analysis of maize and sunflower crops originating from seeds dressed with imidacloprid indicated that large amounts of the insecticide will be carried back to honey bee colonies . Sub-lethal doses of imidacloprid in sucrose solution affected homing and foraging activity of honeybees. Bees fed with 500 or 1 000 ppb (parts per billion) of the insecticide in sucrose solutions failed to return to the hive and disappeared altogether, while bees that had imbibed 100 ppb solutions were delayed for 24 h compared with controls . Imidacloprid in sucrose solution fed to the bees in the laboratory impaired their communication for a few hours . Sub-lethal doses of imidacloprid in laboratory and field experiment decreased flight activity and olfactory discrimination, and olfactory learning performance was impaired .
Bayer corporation scientists reported that neither honeybees exposed to imidacloprid in sunflower seeds dressed with the insecticide  nor maize seeds dressed with the insecticide or released from the seeds during planting  were detrimental to honeybees. The Bayer studies did not deal with sub-lethal behaviour of intoxicated bees. An independent study found that imidacloprid was released to the environment from treated maize seeds during seed planting . Bayer eco-toxicologists directed harsh criticisms at reports showing lethal or sub-lethal toxic effects of imidicloprid seed dressing and concluded that imidacloprid does not pose any significant risk to honeybees in the field , without, however, disproving the findings. It is simply yet another case of the anti-precaution principle being applied  (Use and Abuse of the Precautionary Principle, ISIS News 6)
UCSF scientist tracks down suspect in honeybee deaths
A UCSF researcher who found the SARS virus in 2003 and later won a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" for his work thinks he has discovered a culprit in the alarming deaths of honeybees across the United States.
Tests of genetic material taken from a "collapsed colony" in Merced County point to a once-rare microbe that previously affected only Asian bees but might have evolved into a strain lethal to those in Europe and the United States, biochemist Joe DeRisi said Wednesday.
Fungus a possible culprit in bee loss
A FUNGUS that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bees across the US.
Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco have been struggling for months to explain the disorder, and the new findings represent the first solid evidence pointing to a potential cause.
Dying bees Buzz off
What could be going on? The Department of Agriculture in America this week convened a workshop of apiarists and federal and university scientists to suggest some answers.
Colony collapse disorder, as the phenomenon has become known as, was first reported in America in mid-November 2006. It spread rapidly, with beekeepers reporting heavy losses of between 30% and 90% of bees. Some 24 American states have now reported cases of colony collapse disorder. It has also been seen in Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.