colony collapse

I know that many of you have heard of Colony Collapse. It’s the epidemic of honey bees disappearing over the United States. To be more specific:

Beginning in October 2006, some beekeepers began reporting losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. While colony losses are not unexpected during winter weather, the magnitude of loss suffered by some beekeepers was highly unusual.

This phenomenon, which currently does not have a recognizable underlying cause, has been termed “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). The main symptom of CCD is simply no or a low number of adult honey bees present but with a live queen and no dead honey bees in the hive. Often there is still honey in the hive, and immature bees (brood) are present.

There are many theories to this disappearance, ranging from pesticides with unexpected side effects, a new parasite, pathogen, or virus attacking honey bees (a candidate being a pathogenic gut microbe called nosema), or several existing stressors combined stresses including “high levels of infection by the varroa mite (a parasite that feeds on bee blood and transmits bee viruses); poor nutrition due to apiary overcrowding, pollination of crops with low nutritional value, or pollen or nectar scarcity; and exposure to limited or contaminated water supplies.” This information is gathered from this article, “Questions and Answers: Colony Collapse Disorder” at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service website.

There was a guest article in the New York Times that I was reading today about a “low-tech” treatment for colony collapse. It would involve creating habitats for feral bees (ie, ones not domesticated by bee farmers), so that they could create greater populations, so in turn THEY can start pollinating our agriculture. The main problem with honey bees disappearing, is that they pollinate most of our crops. Without bees, you have no pollination, and with pollination…you have no crops, which means no food, which means, …well you understand.

You should read the article. It’s fascinating.

Guest Column: A Low-Tech Treatment for Bee Plague by Aaron E. Hirsh

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