I had a talk with a beekeeper in the mid-west a couple days back. He was mentioning that when they do blueberry pollination, they only leave their bees on the crop for a short period of time due to AFB concerns. I said "Huh? I never heard of AFB being associated with blueberries. I said "Are you telling me that blueberry pollination can infect your hives with AFB?" as I wanted to be very clear. He stated that when he first started pollinating, he would come down with AFB after doing blueberry pollination and he would quickly lose hives. He said it was a mystery for a few years until he spoke up at a bee club, and it was confirmed by others that also pollinate blueberries in the area, that all experience the same thing. That if they leave their bees for more than a few days on blueberries, they also would lose hives and come down with cases of AFB.
This of course set off many questions......
In nature, if certain plants were detrimental to the bees health, and perhaps are growing in large numbers in a particular area, the bees would die, and perhaps seek other areas as they spread through swarming. But what about when bees have no option, and are placed in these highly planted areas, such as with commercial pollination?
I truly believe that there could be plants that could effect bees in any number of ways. Poor nutrition, chemical poisoning, degrading the internal enzymes, etc.
Do we really know the nutritional values of plants we force our bees to feed on, or what about the make up of the plants when it comes to being toxic to the bees? Could there be plants, like the blueberry conversation above, that fosters certain spores and disease to attack the bees health, and make hives crash? We certainly know that some plants are downright toxic and will kill bees. But what about viral or bacterial spread by a new pest or introduced vector?
I question whether the blueberry comments are in fact due to AFB. I've seen AFB, and for the most part, its a slow steady death that could be over a couple years. The guy mentioning the blueberry/AFB details mentioned losing hives rather quickly. Could they be misdiagnosing this as AFB, and perhaps other forces are in play on a more deadly level? I remember a somewhat baffling aspect of the CCD samples being testing in the fact that all samples had extremely high levels of EFB and nosema. A coincidence?
Could one of these plants species harbor a spore or virus that is now being planted on a more widespread application allowing more bees to be effected? And could it be a case where some infected hives from contact from such plants, now have the ability to infect even more based on large holding yards and migratory movement?