Colony Collapse Disorder: What You Need To Know & Why Bees Need Help

Pollination by Honeybees contributes to at least 30 billion dollars worth of U.S Agriculture. They are one of the most critical pollinators in the world. Honeybees contribute 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed up to 90% of the world. Just to put that into more simple perspective: 1 out of 3 mouthfuls of food in the American diet are because of bees. So pretty much, if the bees go, we are going to have a rough time.

Beekeepers world wide reported steep declines of their bee populations starting in the early 2000’s with no known culprit until late 2006: Colony Collapse Disorder.(CCD)

Known by many other names in the past, (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, may disease or autumn collapse), CCD is a scourge to the modern Honeybee population. In 2015, 42% of bee colonies collapsed in the U.S alone. Both managed honeybee and wild populations have experienced serious declines in the past decade.

Colony Collapse Disorder is specifically defined as a dead colony with no adult bees and with no dead bee bodies, but with a live queen, food sources (honey, pollen) and immature bees  (pupae, eggs, larvae) still present. The scientific community has yet to agree on a cause for CCD but they have an idea of contributing factors. Scientists believe that CCD has a more synergistic cause that a single point of origin. Here are a few of the main contributors:

Pesticides:

Neonicotinoids are a commonly used pesticide for corn and other widely grown agricultural crops. Honeybees may be affected when these pesticides are used for seed treatment since they work their way up the plant into the flower. The neonicotinoids are secreted as a residue in the pollen and not only affect the bee that comes into contact, but the whole hive when the bee returns. The EU has taken an active role in isolating and banning three neonicotinoids that they have proven to be an acute risk to honeybees. The U.S has established the Save America's Pollinators Act of 2013, which is currently up for review in the House of Representatives.

Varroa Mites: 

The Varroa destructor or “vampire mite” is one of the deadliest Honeybee killers due to the viruses they carry into the hives, and their parasitic nature. Deformed Wing Virus and Acute Bee Paralysis are just a few of the deadly diseases these mites can infest a whole hive with. The Varroa Mites don’t have a preference, they will prey on all types of honeybees (workers, nurse bees, larvae) which make them a huge threat to the bee population

Antibiotics + Miticides:

Most beekeepers that have had losses due to CCD report using Antibiotics and Miticides within their apiaries. Unfortunately the lack of uniformity in what type of chemicals they use make it hard to find a single culprit for the population loss. 

Malnutrition, poor quality queen bees (not producing enough babies) and starvation are other contributing factors. Long story short, Bees these days have a lot of obstacles in their way. Understanding these obstacles, staying informed and spreading education is one of the ways you can help save them.