CCD research - Do the facts warrant a moratorium on Australian imports?
Research recently reported in Science, which most of you have probably heard about, identifies an association between Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) and some CCD samples. You may want to read the paper for yourselves if you haven't done so already. Some people think that the paper proves that IAPV causes CCD and that IAPV entered the US in imported Australian bees but neither has been proven. Others have already made up their minds about the issue of whether Australian bee imports have anything to do with CCD, and whether curtailing Australian imports would reduce the threat of CCD, but for those of you who still have open minds, I'd like to confuse the issue with a few key facts.
First, let me begin by saying that while I am as concerned as anyone about the health of US honey bees, and I want to get answers to what is causing CCD, and what we can do to stop it, I do not personally support a moratorium on Australian bees. Of course you can dismiss my opinion by noting that since the regulations have been changed to allow Australian imports (a change I initially resisted) I have been involved in importing Australian package bees and queens, and it is in my own pecuniary interest to keep Australian imports flowing. You can say that, but I hope you read on, because I want to protect the US industry as much as anyone, and I have the interests of the whole beekeeping industry at heart. After all, many beekeepers have used Australian packages to successfully restock or strengthen hives that perished or were weakened by CCD or other problems. And I also breed and sell US queens and packages too, so I would not knowingly shoot myself in the foot just to import a few Australian packages or queens. However, I favor implementing meaningful changes to US laws and regulations to better protect the US beekeeping industry when and if the science demonstrates that imports of foreign bees pose a risk of introducing pathogens or parasites that are not already in the US. If the data demonstrate that there are pests or pathogens present in honey bees from Australia that we do not have here, then changes to current regulations may be warranted. But I believe that our current international treaty obligations require us to look and prove that exporting countries have risks not present in the US if we want to exclude imports. Consequently, immediate, systematic collections and evaluation of honey bee samples from across the country should begin, so that we know the current extent and distribution of various organisms of interest. We also must persuade Congress to fund and USDA to conduct a National Honey Bee Pest and Pathogen Surveillance program to conduct on a regular basis in the future.