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 What Is Bee Colony Collapse Disorder?


A disturbing phenomenon in recent years is the seeming loss of bees. Bees are important in the pollination of plants. Their loss threatens the food supply. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the term given to the complete absence or low number of adult bees while having a live queen bee and the absence of dead bees in a hive or a colony. While CCD is not the sole cause of the absence of bees, it is considered a very ominous event and is the subject of research.

Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

Save the bees, save ourselves

The Apiary Inspectors of America and the USDA-ARS Honey Bee Lab surveys 20 per cent of estimated 2.4 million bee colonies in the USA during the winter months, the season when some bee colony loss is expected. Scientists found that bee loss from all causes:

Winter months Bee Colony Loss (All Causes) Colony Loss from CCD
• 2006/2007 31.8 %
• 2007/2008 35.8 % 32 %
• 2008/2009 28.6 % 26 %
• 2009/2010 33.8 % 44 %

Scientists warn that this loss is not sustainable and are looking into causes and possible remedies.

They theorize some causes of bee colony collapse to include:
• Poor nutrition due to colony overcrowding, decrease in flowers with pollen and nectars and pollination of low nutritional value plants
• Pesticides
• Infection with parasites especially the varroa mite that feed on bee blood and transmits the Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), virus found in CCD cases and not in non-CCD colony loss
• Stress which lower the immune system such as apiary overcrowding, migratory stress and limited or contaminated water supply

Marla Spivak, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota and recipient of the 2010 McArthur Foundation Fellowship Award, has devoted her life to the protection of honey bees. In in 1994, she collaborated with fellow scientist Gary Reuter, to begin to breed what is now known as the Minnesota hygienic bee. It appears that when bees die, hygienic bees break open the cells and remove the dead bees from the colony thus protecting the rest of the population from whatever killed the dead bee. This is important because hygienic bees remove the virus containing varroa mite from the hive thus limiting the infection.

While the Minnesota Hygienic Bee may be a break through, it is by far not the only cause of CCD. You can help by decreasing pesticide use or not spraying on midday, when bees are less likely to pollinate. You can also plant nectar rich flowers such as foxglove, bee balm and red clover.

First published at Qondio on 2/21/2011

Nora Quiason




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