Well, it seems that the number of bees dying is increasing, and has spread to Canada and to Europe. It’s hardly possible that a pesticide is responsible, given the differing usage patterns among EU and North America. The event has already become critical, as just a little less than about 1/3 of the crops grown in North America depend on Bees for pollination. The practice of transporting Bees around in closed semi-trailers has undoubtedly greatly increased the speed with which the outbreak has spread, but no one is talking about putting any limits on moving bees around, as no one has a plan “B” for pollinating their crops without bees, and without moving the existing hives around, there won’t be enough to pollinate all crops. Such is the downside of a super-efficient economy, in which travel and movement of items is cheap.
Time is, of course, critical, which is exactly why, as I have written here and here that it is necessary to have a fully implemented syndromic surveillance system. The lack of the priority for such a system in the current Bush administration is a serious oversight, and is indicative of a very basic lack of leadership and imagination.
It is one of the most important features of a correctly designed syndromic surveillance system that it sees the entire ecology as a network, not just one of that network’s parts, so syndromic surveillance systems are useful for many purposes other than detecting human disease outbreaks, although they are good for that, too. The chief advantage they give those fighting a disease outbreak is time, that is time to react, to quarantine, to diagnose.
So here’s a story on the Bee die off, from wikipedia:
Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD) is a poorly understood phenomenon involving the massive die-off of a beehive or bee colony. The BBC has referred to it as VBS (Vanishing Bee Syndrome). It was originally apparently limited to colonies of the Western honey bee in North America, but European beekeepers have recently claimed to be observing a similar phenomenon in Poland and Spain, with initial reports coming in from Switzerland and Germany, albeit to a smaller degree. The cause (or causes) of the syndrome is not yet well understood and even the existence of this disorder remains disputed. Theories include environmental change-related stresses, malnutrition, unknown pathogens (i.e., disease), mites, pesticides such as neonicotinoids, emissions from cellular phones or other manmade devices, and genetically modified (GM) crops.
From 1971 to 2006 approximately half of the U.S. honey bee colonies have vanished, but this decline includes the cumulative losses from all factors such as urbanization, pesticide use, tracheal and Varroa mites and commercial beekeepers retiring and going out of business, and has been fairly gradual. Late in the year 2006 and in early 2007, however, the rate of attrition was alleged to have reached new proportions, and the term “Colony Collapse Disorder” was proposed to describe this sudden rash of disappearances.
Limited occurrences resembling CCD have been documented as early as 1896, and this set of symptoms has in the past several decades been given many different names (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease). Most recently, a similar phenomenon in the winter of 2004/2005 occurred, and was attributed to Varroa mites (the “Vampire Mite” scare), though this was never ultimately confirmed. In none of the past appearances of this syndrome has anyone been able to determine its cause(s). Upon recognition that the syndrome does not seem to be seasonally-restricted, and that it may not be a “disease” in the standard sense—that there may not be a specific causative agent—the syndrome was renamed.
3. The economy of a major metropolis in USA will be hit hard by the effects of an emerging infectious disease. Major vulnerable metropoli in North America would be New York, due to its high exposure, and Las Vegas, due to it dependency on tourism. For Las Vegas economy to be affected, the disease will not even have to occur in Las Vegas, but affect the travel network that the tourism industry is dependent upon.