Posts Tagged: colony collapse disorder
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.
The Western Apicultural Society (WAS) conference, taking place this week in the Dry Creek Inn, Healdsburg, is drawing a lot of interest.
Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is finishing his yearlong term as president of WAS.
The key point: Honey bees are in trouble. The beekeepers and scientists attending the conference are receiving up-to-date, unpublished research on colony collapse disorder (CDD) the mysterious phenomonen characterized by adult bees abandoning their hive, leaving behind the brood and food storage.
No one knows what causes CCD, but it's thought to be a combination of factors: diseases, pesticides, viruses, stress, pests, malnutrition, and weather changes.
What's new: newly discovered pathogens are landing on the suspect list. Expect to hear more about these new pathogens later this year when the research is published.
It's rather ironic--but expected--that honey bees are nectaring the flowers outside the conference room as the participants are discussing bee health.
The bees will return to their hives and perform round dances and waggle dances to let their sisters know the direction and quality of the food source.
They have a keen sense of direction, like built-in clocks based on a sun-compass orientation.
But for humans, another clock is ticking...
Entomologists, geneticists and virologists are still searching for the cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD).
Yes, they're still searching, and no, there' s no known cause yet.
CCD is a mysterious phenomonen characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive. They leave behind the brood and stored food.
When we attended the 55th annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America in December 2007, one of the highly attended seminars dealt with the plight of the honey bees. Pennsylvania State University entomologist Dennis vanEngelsdorp and USDA entomologist Jeff Pettis were among those addressing the crowd.
In research just published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed science publication, they and their colleagues found that a higher total load of pathogens--viruses, bacteria and fungi--appears to show the strongest link yet with CCD.
The researchers examined 91 colonies from 13 apiaries in Florida and California. They screened for bacteria, mites, Nosema (protozoan parasites) numerous viruses, nutrition status and 171 pesticides. They also sampled adult bees, wax comb bee bread (stored and processed pollen) and brood.
"Of 61 quantified variables (including adult bee physiology, pathogen loads, and pesticide levels), no single measure emerged as a most-likely cause of CCDm" they wrote. "Bees in CCD colonies had higher pathogen loads and were co-infected with a greater number of pathogens than control populations, suggesting either an increased exposure to pathogens or a reduced resistance of bees toward pathogens. Levels of the synthetic acaricide coumaphos (used by beekeepers to control the parasitic mite Varroa destructor) were higher in control colonies than CCD-affected colonies."
Their research, the first comprehensive survey of CCD-affected bee populations, suggests that CCD "involves an interaction between pathogens and other stress factors," they wrote. They presented evidence that CCD is "is contagious or the result of exposure to a common risk factor."
Bottom line: High pathogen loads are linked to CCD symptoms, but scientists still don't know what causes bees to become infected with SO MANY pathogens.
What this research does is narrow the direction of future CCD research. It's a big step in the right direction.
"Help the bees" continues to be a resounding cry. Helping to fund the research is Häagen-Dazs (about 50 percent of their ice cream flavors depend on bee pollination). Those visiting their educational Web site can donate funds to Penn State and UC Davis.
Plight of the Honey Bee