Posts Tagged: colony collapse disorder
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, is quoted in a Dec. 6 article in the Epoch Times about colony collapse disorder (CCD).
CCD is the mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen bee, brood, and food stores.
The gist of the Epoch Times article: The European Commission recently published its concerns about honey bee health.
In a communiqué, the commission sought to clarify the key issues related to bee health and key actions that it intends to take to address them.
"Beekeeping is a widely-developed activity in the European Union (EU), both at professional (keepers with over 150 hives) and hobby level," the communiqué began. "There are around 700,000 beekeepers in the EU out of which around 97% are non-professional accounting for around 67% of EU hives. Honey production is estimated to be close to 200,000 tons. Beekeeping is also associated with the production of other products such as wax, royal jelly, propolis, etc."
Epoch Times reporter Marco 't Hoen subsequently sought out Mussen for information on CCD and honey bee health in the United States. Mussen told him that CCD is a worldwide problem.
Twenty-five percent of beekeepers in the United States have recurring problems with CCD, Mussen said. The colonies range in size from one to 15,000.
Wrote the reporter: "He (Mussen) believes that in the U.S., CCD is caused by an infectious disease, which they have not yet identified. His reasoning is based on the fact that when bees are introduced to replace the dead one, they die as well. But when the hive is cleaned properly the new bees can survive."
Indeed, CCD is linked to multiple causes, including diseases, pests, pesticides, malnutrition and stress. Weakened colonies don't fare well.
The Epoch Times article quoted USDA statistics indicating that bee pollination of crops "is worth $15 billion per year" in the United States. For example, "the almond industry in California alone used about half of the 2.3 million colonies in the country in 2009 for pollination." In the European Union, about 700,000 beekeepers maintain almost 14 million colonies, according to the EC communiqué.
As an aside, U.S. beekeepers are now gearing up for the California almond season, which usually starts around Feb. 1. The state has more than 700,000 acres of almonds and each acre requires two hives for pollination. Since California doesn't have that many bees, bees are trucked here from all over the country.
It's a gold rush of sorts in the Golden State.
California, here we come!
The news is not good.
The honey bee crisis is worsening.
Back in November of 2006, commercial beekeeper David Hackenberg of Pennsylvania sounded the alarm. Fifty 50 percent of his bees had collapsed in Florida. Other beekeepers came forward with equally bad news: some individuals reporting losing one-third to 100 percent of their bees.
Quickly referred to as colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious phenomenon is characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, flying off and leaving behind the queen bee, brood and stored food.
Fast forward to today: a federal survey shows a heavy bee dieoff this winter, and research published last Friday in the journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) shows an alarming number of pesticides found in pollen and wax samples from 23 states and a Canadian province.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, agrees that bees are in trouble and the declining population is worsening. Scores of beekeepers have reported opening hives and finding them virtually empty.
Meanwhile, another federal survey on bee winter losses will take place April 1 through April 14. That should shed more light on a darkening crisis.
Perhaps CCD is due to a yet undiscovered virus. Perhaps it's due to a combination of factors: pesticides, diseases, pests, viruses, malnutrition and stress.
"Unexpected, periodic losses of honey bee colonies, very similar to this, have been noted in the bee journals since the late 1800s, but they tended to be very short term," Mussen says in his March 19th Bee Brief, published on the UC Davis Entomology Web site. "In 1965, 66, and 67 a similar problem persisted for three years. Our current session is the longest yet."
"The intensity of research on possible leads to the causes of CCD is increasing around the world, as other countries are having similar losses in their honey bee colonies," he writes in his Bee Brief. "The global nature of the problem suggests that some other, more fundamental aspect of the environment may be involved. Honey bees prosper best and are best able to resist diseases, parasites, exposures to toxins, etc. when they have fed on a quality diet.
"For bees in general, and honey bees in particular, that means a constant supply of pollens that provide their required proteins, vitamins, lipids, sterols, minerals, antioxidants and carbohydrates. While global warming may not directly challenge a species of insect that can prosper from very cold climates to the equator, climate change may result in more stress on the bees. Increased periods of dry, hot weather or cold, rainy weather, could limit availability and access to those important pollens. The bees will have to rear their brood at the expense of their body nutrient reserves. The brood will be less well fed, and in turn will not be good at rearing the next 'round of brood.' "
That sort of downward spiral, Mussen says, will leave the bees very fragile and susceptible.
The MAAREC Web site (Mid-Atlantic Apiculture and Extension Consortium) hosted by Pennsylvania State University, offers latest updates on the crisis.
Tending the Bees
Soon beekeepers from around the country will be trucking their bees to California for the annual almond pollination.
California has some 700,000 acres of almonds, with each acre requiring two hives for pollination.
But an article in the Dec. 27th edition of the New York Post raises a serious question: How healthy are the honey bees?
Since colony collapse disorder (CCD) became the buzz word in the fall of 2006, just how healthy are the bees now?
Well, CCD is still with us, and the commercial beekeeper that sounded the alarm--Dave Hackenberg of Pennsylvania--says this winter could be the worst yet.
Hackenberg told The Post that "We had around 3000 hives at the end of the summer, but they started shrinking early, so when we came to truck them to Florida, there was only 2000 of them left."
He said that he wouldn't be surprised if one-fifth of his bees died before spring. "We're hoping we can stop at 50 percent losses," Hackenberg told reporter Alison Benjamin.
CCD, the mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive--leaving behind the queen and brood--continues to wreak havoc.
That's why honey bee research is so important.
CCD is probably caused by multiple factors, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Davis and closely affiliated with the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. The targeted list of suspects involved includes diseases, parasites, pesticides, pests, viruses, stress, malnutrition, and weather changes.
Beeline to Blossom
What's wrong with this photo?
A honey bee is nectaring a lavender, right?
But if you look closely, you'll see a Varroa mite--a parasite--attached to her.
Varroa mites, considered the No. 1 pest in the honey bee industry, are linked to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind food stores and the brood.
Varroa mites are so common that it's rare to find a hive without them.
Female mites reproduce inside brood cells in the hive. Mites suck the bee blood or hemolymph; in doing so, they spread viruses, stunt the growth and cause deformities.
Within two years, they can destroy a colony.
Not a pleasant sight.
Mite on bee
What's causing colony collapse disorder (CCD)?
Are we any closer to determining the cause?
CCD, the mysterious malady characterized by bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the brood and food storage, continues to be of great concern--and rightfully so.
The headlines today read:
- Scientists discover virus that could explain drop in bee population--Science News, Timesonline
- DNA clue to honey bee deaths--BBC
A noted expert on honey bees, Mussen is frequently asked "The CCD Question."
What does he think is causing CCD?
"As the pieces are coming together, I think that a still undetermined virus is causing the problem," Mussen says. "The malady appears to be 'contagious' and 'drying' the combs seems to reduce or eliminate it."
"Our bees need to be in top physiological condition. I believe that malnutrition puts a physiological stress on the bees, especially the immune and chemical detoxification systems. Then diseases and exposures to chemicals become very significant."
Beekeepers who do a lot of supplementary feeding, he says, see fewer problems.
So, if you're a beekeeper, place your hives in locations with an abundance of high quality pollens and nectar.
And don't ignore those combs.
"If a beekeeper has them on hand, the bees most likely would be better off on newer, less contaminated (with mite-killing compounds) combs," Mussen says.
How can we help? We can plant trees, ornamentals, and flowers that provide food for the bees. "It's especially important to provide nectar and pollens at the end of the season--late summer and fall," he says. "That's when resources tend to become scarce."
What else can we do? Stop using pesticides on plants that bees visit. "The most suspect group of pesticides at this time are the neonicotinoid insecticides that move systemically in the plants," Mussen says. "They get into the nectar and pollen. However, the fungicides, thought by many to be benign to honey bees, are pretty common contaminants and may be causing more problems than we think."
Meanwhile, the search for the cause(s) of CCD continues.