May 28, 2008


So what's Plan Bee?
The Observer -
25 May 2008
S Garfield
Photo courtesy of Andy Hall
Area: England United Kingdom

They are nature's most productive workers, the farmer's friend and the essence of wholesome country life. But within a decade Britain's honeybee could be extinct. Simon Garfield meets the keepers battling a killer disease that's already wiped out a third of America's colonies – and now threatens our own. . . . This is the end-product; people who admire it, or at least those with experience, speak of how difficult it is to make a lot of honey these days, such is the daily battle they face against blood-sucking varroa mites and viruses, and something they refer to with horror as CCD. This is not part of the usual carefree repertoire of the beekeeper's life. Clearly there is something wrong in bee world.

A short walk from the auction, a highly regarded beekeeper called Clive de Bruyn ('pronounced "Brain"') was giving an engaging talk about the traumas of bee husbandry in 2008. De Bruyn has been keeping bees for 25 years in 11 different counties, and he tried to put a positive spin on things. 'I think I was asked to talk about varroa disease,' he began. 'But I said no. And then I was asked to talk about disease and I said no.' He said he was going to talk about maintaining bees in spite of varroa, because it was important not to stress the negative side of beekeeping. But in the 45-minute talk that followed, disease was everywhere. 'I've had varroa in my hives since 1992,' de Bruyn said, 'and I've never knowingly lost a colony because of it.' He said that out of his 200 colonies last year he lost only 16, which was regarded as a good tally, certainly compared to the devastation many apiarists suffered in the United States.

New Coronavirus Found in Beluga Whale
ScienceDaily - (Source: American Society of Microbiology)
25 May 2008
Area: United States

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri; Sea Word, San Diego, CA; and the University of California at Davis have determined a never before seen virus found in the liver of a beluga whale to be a new strain of the coronavirus. With emerging infectious diseases on the rise, it is now estimated that 75% derive from zoonotic sources. This being the case, health officials are now looking to zoological parks and aquariums for emerging virus surveillance. ViroChip is a panviral DNA testing method capable of detecting thousands of known viruses as well as unknown viruses linked to previously identified viral families.

Growing Ocean Acidity May Erode Coastal Ecosystems
National Geographic News -
22 May 2008
J Roach

Ocean waters along North America's west coast are becoming more acidic than expected in response to atmospheric carbon emissions, which will likely cause significant changes to economically vital marine ecosystems, a new study says. At one spot in northern California, waters acidic enough to corrode seashells now rake the shore, researchers point out. "The models suggested they wouldn't be corrosive at the surface until sometime during the second half of this century," Richard Feely, a chemical oceanographer with the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, said via email. Scientists have long known that the oceans serve as a giant carbon sink, moderating the effects of global warming by absorbing about a third to a half of human-caused carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

But the added carbon dioxide is lowering the oceans' pH, changing their chemistry and biology, explained Feely, whose lab is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Acidic waters inhibit marine organisms from producing the calcium carbonate that makes up their exoskeletons and shells. "Scientists have also seen a reduced ability of marine algae and free-floating plants and animals to produce protective carbonate shells," Feely said. For example researchers have seen a decline in swimming mollusks called pteropods that are eaten by creatures ranging from shrimplike krill to whales.

Marchio: Eye disease hits finches in Hanover area
The Evening Sun -
25 May 2008
B Marchio
Area: Pennsylvania United States

A few years ago, house finches and purple finches were common songbirds which crowded local bird feeders. In recent years, there has been a noticeable absence of the species in the area. . . . Where have these birds gone? The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York says the birds, house finches in particular, have fallen victim to an avian disease known as mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, caused by a parasitic bacteria previously known to only infect poultry, especially turkeys. According to the Cornell lab, the disease was first discovered in the songbirds in early 1994 with house finches with swollen, red eyes were seen at feeders in the Washington, D.C., area, including parts of Maryland and Virginia.

It appears the eye disease has hit only the eastern house finch population first. Birds with avian conjunctivitis often have red, swollen, watery, or crusty eyes; in extreme cases, the eyes are so swollen or crusted over that the birds are virtually blind. House finches were once found only in the west, separated from the eastern United States by the Rocky Mountains. In the 1940s, the birds were caged and illegally sold in the east as "Hollywood Finches." Released in the east after pet stores stopped the illegal sales, the birds spread rapidly.

Reported Wildlife Mortality Events to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center Updated
USGS National Wildlife Health Center
27 May 2008
Area: United States

USGS and a network of partners across the country work on documenting wildlife mortality events in order to provide timely and accurate information on locations, species and causes of death. This information was updated on May 23, 2008 on the USGS National Wildlife Health Center web page, New and Ongoing Wildlife Mortality Events Nationwide. Quarterly Mortality Reports are also available from this page. These reports go back to 1995.

Frogs back from the dead
The Australian -
26 May 2008
G Roberts
Area: Queensland Australia

Queensland frogs, feared to be on the path to extinction, have defied the experts by making a comeback.

Frogs from rainforest mountain streams in north and southeast Queensland are returning to areas where they have not been recorded for many years. "There is a ray of light at last for these animals," said Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service herpetologist Harry Hines. In a phenomonon that started in the late 1970s, six Queensland frog species became extinct when the chytrid virus invaded their pristine habitat in the rainforest streams. The fungus infects frog skins, destroying the animals' breathing and nervous systems.

Experts believe infection is triggered by a factor such as pollution from agricultural chemicals, increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation, or temperature rises from climate change. The Queensland extinctions, which included the unique platypus frog, coincided with a worldwide crash in amphibian populations, feared by some observers as the harbinger of impending environmental disaster linked to climate change. Mr Hines has noted recent increases in numbers of the tiny Kroombit tinker frog in the forests of the Kroombit Tops, near Gladstone in central Queensland. Three species of closely allied tinker frogs were among the extinction victims of the chytrid virus.

Scientists identify second H7 strain of bird flu that could cause pandemic
The Times -
27 May 2008
M Henderson

The H5N1 strain of bird flu that has killed 241 people is not the only one that could trigger a pandemic, according to research in America. A few H7 strains of the flu virus have started to evolve some of the traits they would need to infect people easily, scientists have discovered. The findings, from a team led by Terrence Tumpey, of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, show that while there is no immediate indication that H7 flu is about to acquire potentially damaging mutations, it is critical that global surveillance and research covers this virus class as well as the more obvious H5N1, scientists said. The H5N1 strain has been regarded as the most deadly strain since it appeared in Asia in 2003.

Although it has a death rate of more than 60 per cent, it has not yet acquired the ability to move from person to person, which would be a prerequisite for a pandemic. There has been only one case in which it is considered probable that the virus was transmitted from person to person, and analysis of the virus's genetic structure has not yet revealed mutations that would allow it to infect people more easily. It is generally caught from close contact with infected birds, in which it is endemic in some parts of the world, particularly in Asia. The H7 family of flu viruses also primarily affects birds.


Photo courtesy of Reed Saxon/AP Photo


Avian influenza viruses in wild birds: A moving target
Comparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. 2008 May 2. [Epub ahead of print][online abstract only]
WM Boyce et al.

Emerging Infectious Diseases - June 2008
Vol 14, Iss 6 [free full-text available]

WDIN Highlights Bulletin - June 2008
Same High Quality News, Bright New Look!
Volume 03, Issue05

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