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Archive for the ‘Bio Technology’ Category

For 6 years now, the West Nile Virus has been hitting the crow population hard. Scientific American’s May 17th, 2007, article, “West Nile Hammers U.S. Birds”, spells it out best.

“Now a major analysis confirms that American crows have been extremely hard hit nationwide–populations have fallen by 45% since the West Nile virus arrived–and several other common birds continue to decline as well.”

However, with some bird populations bouncing back from the devastations of the disease, the article concludes with the following caution:

“Ecologist Carsten Rahbek of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark notes in an accompanying commentary that the study shows that “West Nile virus could potentially change the composition of bird communities across the entire continent.” That could bode ill for plants, Kilpatrick notes, as many of the birds eat caterpillars and other pests, while others disperse seeds. The crisis for birds isn’t over yet, adds ecologist Kevin McGowan of Cornell University in Ithaca, as a lot of birds have not yet been exposed.”

One cannot help but think about how all the viruses (good and bad) are affecting our world.

See also…

What is one Bee’s Pleasure is Another’s Disdain?

PS. If you see a dead bird or squirrel, or suspect symptoms of the West Nile Virus, call 1-877-WNV-BIRD, IF you are in the State of California only.  If you see a dead bird or squirrel, in any another State, please contact your local animal control or health agencies in your State.

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One of my many fond memories of my childhood is being very little (maybe 4 or 5 – the age that many older adults still enjoy picking you up and letting you sit on their knees). We were sitting outside in the “courtyard” of sorts between my Grandparent’s home and the guest house that was attached to a detached garage (detached from the main home, that is). The yard had a huge pine tree that overpowered the levels of the roofs of the structures and hid the water well from view. Along the sidewalks and the outer outlining areas, separating it from the rest of the ranchland were many flowerbeds that had roses and daisies planted in them. They were all a-bloom.

One of the visitors that my Grandma had over was an older man and a friend to my Grandma and Grandma. I always loved it when he would come over because he would bring us the largest jar of honey that you would have ever seen in your life with the largest honeycomb right smack in the middle of it. I loved picking up the honeycomb and allowing the fresh honey to be dribbled all into my mouth. It was almost tradition that my Grandma would let me have the first taste of the fresh honey brought to us.

My Grandma would have made fresh bread for this occasion and we would spoon heaping spoonfuls of honey all upon the hot bread and savored each and every bite as my sister and I would play outdoors and the adults would continue talking beyond when the sun went down.

Before the sun went down though, I sat on this man’s knees for a bit. A bee landed upon my knee and I quickly got the attention of everyone by saying, “Grandma!” without even a flinch. This man quickly patted me on the back and assured me that, if we just watch the bee, he will fly away soon and look for something else to light upon. The bee did fly away while the beekeeper continued to tell us a story about how he collects the honey from the bees and how the bees were our friends.

Apparently, this story wasn’t heard near and far though!!

Katie Couric, from the CBS News, aired a story entitled, “FYI: What’s happening to the bees? Lots of theories but little proof as scientists scramble to solve what could be an agriculture crisis!” She started out with the story about a Pennsylvania farmer:

“As if by one sudden swoop, thousands of bees disappeared from the Pennsylvania farm of Dave Hackenberg. But he was just the first of hundreds of bee farmers — also known as apiarists — to report a sudden die-off or depopulation of their hives to researchers.

He told National Geographic: ‘In almost 50 years as a beekeeper, I’ve never seen anything like it.'”

and then continued by explaining:

“In short, a quarter of the country’s 2.4 million bee colonies have been decimated or lost. There are many theories about what’s caused the loss, but there is no definitive answer.

One thing has almost been agreed upon: Scientists are calling this Colony Collapse Disorder. Well, except for those who call it Fall Dwindle Disease (the phenomenon’s former name).

A Congressional Research Service report for members of Congress listed the following possible causes of CCD, as reported by scientists.

 

  • Parasites, mites, and disease loads in the bees and brood
  • Known/unknown pathogens
  • Poor nutrition among adult bees
  • Level of stress in adult bees (e.g., transportation and confinement of
    bees, or other environmental or biological stressors)
  • Chemical residue/contamination in the wax, food stores and/or bees
  • Lack of genetic diversity and lineage of bees
  • A combination of several factors”
  • and concluded with some resources that will be posted at this end of this blog posting.

    In the meantime, I am remembering another story where a virus has been developed to destroy the pesty and annoying fire ants, such as in the May 7, 2007, CNN story entitled, “Fire Ants May Have Met Their Match”. They said:

    “Researchers have pinpointed a naturally occurring virus that kills the ants, which arrived in the U.S. in the 1930s and now cause $6 billion in damage annually nationwide, including about $1.2 billion in Texas.

    The virus caught the attention of U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers in Florida in 2002. The agency is now seeking commercial partners to develop the virus into a pesticide to control fire ants.

    The virus was found in about 20 percent of fire ant fields, where it appears to cause the slow death of infected colonies.”

    They are now looking for a partner to introduce this virus into pesticides. But one has to wonder if by gambling with the development of this virus that, supposedly just affects the ants, isn’t potentially affecting our bee supply too????

    With so much biotechnology being developed, one has to wonder if, perhaps, development of some viruses could also be an upset to our balance of nature. What do you think?????

    *******************************************************************

    As promised, some of the additional resources for more information about bees that was given in the CBS News article are (for quick access):

    USDA’s “National Honey Report”

    The National Honey Board – This month’s top topic is the “Colony Collapse Disorder”

    Prepared Testimony of Diana Cox-Foster, Professor Department of Entomology at the Pennsylvania State University before the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture on Colony Collapse Disorder in Honey Bee Colonies in the United States, March 29, 2007

    Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Recent Honey Bee Colony Declines, March 26, 2007, by Renee Johnson, Analyst in Agricultural Economics (Resources, Science, and Industry Division) for the members and committees of Congress

    Honey Locator

    Additional Resources:

    National Human Genome Research Institute

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