The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Parasitic fly may cause colony collapse disorder

Parasitic fly on honeybee

I've read at least half a dozen different possible explanations for colony collapse disorder, but the Apocephalus borealis fly is a new one.  This tiny parasitic fly lays its eggs on honeybees, then the larvae nibble their way into the bees' brains and eat them alive.

Unsurprisingly, bees that fall prey to the Apocephalus borealis flies don't do so well.  The bees get disoriented, abandon their hives, and become stranded near bright lights.

Although lots of other problems have been correlated with hives that succumb to colony collapse disorder, the parasitic fly is unique in that it seems like it might actually cause the symptoms we see.  In addition, the timing seems right --- in the San Francisco Bay area where the scientists work, the fly visits honeybees from October to January and again in late summer, right before the majority of hives come down with colony collapse disorder.

So far, scientists are simply adding Apocephalus borealis to the suite of problems that colony collapse disorder hives seem to share, but I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be the primary culprit.

For those of you who didn't take statistics, if two things always happen together, that's a correlation.  For example, Huckleberry likes to sit in my chair whenever I want to sit there.  Just because the events are correlated, though, doesn't prove anything about causation --- sometimes, two correlated events are simply caused by the a third event we didn't think to measure.  In my example, the third event is a warm fire on a cold night --- the warmth attracts both me and Huckleberry like moths to a flame.  Returning to the serious case of colony collapse disorder, just because we often see Nosema apis and Varroa destructor in the sick hives doesn't mean these illnesses cause the disorder.

Our chicken waterer keeps our chickens from being bored while cooped up on a snowy day.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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