The Disappearing Honey Bees
Colony Collapse Disorder — Cause: Unknown



 
The Disappearing Honey Bees
Colony Collapse Disorder — Cause: Unknown


 
From 1972 to 2006, there was a dramatic reduction in the number of feral honey bees in the U.S. (now almost absent) and a significant though somewhat gradual decline in the number of colonies maintained by beekeepers.

In late 2006 and early 2007 the rate of attrition was alleged to have reached new proportions, and the term "colony collapse disorder" began to be used to describe this sudden rash of disappearances.

It has been suggested that this event may be due to a combination of many factors and that no single factor is the cause.

 
Why are the bees dying? Why are honey bees disappearing from across the US? Well, Burt's Bees is raising awareness about an environmental issue called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) to find out and help save the dying bees.

Colony Collapse Disorder is the sudden dying of bees causing the whole honey bee colony to collapse leading to widespread disappearance of bees from our environment.


While the exact causes for bee Colony Collapse Disorder are unknown, we do know that forces like habitat destruction, misuse of pesticides, invasive species and global warming create risks to honey bees.

You can help make the planet a healthy place for bees. Sign up for a free packet of wildflower seeds to plant and give bees a healthy place to live in your neighborhood.

We're also providing access to support local organic farmers who naturally create pesticide-free, bee-friendly environments while providing local communities with healthy fresh produce.


Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) or sometimes honey bee depopulation syndrome (HBDS) is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear.

While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, the term colony collapse disorder was first applied to a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in North America in late 2006.


Colony collapse is economically significant because many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by bees.

European beekeepers observed similar phenomena in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, and initial reports have also come in from Switzerland and Germany, albeit to a lesser degree while the Northern Ireland Assembly received reports of a decline greater than 50%.

Possible cases of CCD have also been reported in Taiwan since April 2007. The cause or causes of the syndrome are not yet fully understood, although many authorities attribute the problem to biotic factors such as Varroa mites and insect diseases (i.e., pathogens including Nosema apis and Israel acute paralysis virus).

Other proposed causes include environmental change-related stresses, malnutrition and pesticides (e.g. neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid), and migratory beekeeping.

More speculative possibilities have included both cell phone radiation and genetically modified (GM) crops with pest control characteristics, though no evidence exists for either assertion.

It has also been suggested that it may be due to a combination of many factors and that no single factor is the cause.

The most recent report (USDA - 2010) states that "based on an initial analysis of collected bee samples (CCD- and non-CCD affected), reports have noted the high number of viruses and other pathogens, pesticides, and parasites present in CCD colonies, and lower levels in non-CCD colonies. This work suggests that a combination of environmental stressors may set off a cascade of events and contribute to a colony where weakened worker bees are more susceptible to pests and pathogens."

Applying proteomics-based pathogen screening tools in 2010, researchers announced they had identified a co-infection of invertebrate iridescent virus type 6 (IIV-6) and the fungus Nosema ceranae in all CCD colonies sampled.

However, subsequent studies have questioned the methodology used in these proteomic experiments.



The Disappearing Honey Bees


Beekeepers on What's Happening

Colony Collapse Disorder is causing honey bees around the world to die without explanation.

Backyard beekeepers and experts describe the relationship between humans and bees, how CCD is impacting colonies, and how everyone can help their recovery.

From 1972 to 2006, there was a dramatic reduction in the number of feral honeybees in the U.S. (now almost absent); and a significant, though somewhat gradual decline in the number of colonies maintained by beekeepers.

This decline includes the cumulative losses from all factors such as urbanization, pesticide use, tracheal and Varroa mites, and commercial beekeepers  retiring and going out of business.

However, late in the year 2006 and in early 2007 the rate of attrition was alleged to have reached new proportions, and the term "colony collapse disorder" was proposed to describe this sudden rash of disappearances.

Limited occurrences resembling CCD have been documented as early as 1869 and this set of symptoms has in the past several decades been given many different names (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease).

Most recently, a similar phenomenon in the winter of 2004/2005 occurred, and was attributed to Varroa mites (the "Vampire Mite" scare), though this was never ultimately confirmed.

Nobody has been able to determine the cause of any past appearances of this syndrome. Upon recognition that the syndrome does not seem to be seasonally restricted, and that it may not be a "disease" in the standard sense—that there may not be a specific causative agent—the syndrome was renamed.


Bees are Dying - BBC News


A few scientists have suggested that climate change can make
bee hives more vulnerable to CCD, although it is not implicated as a direct cause of the disorder.

"We see plants blooming at different times of the year", says amateur beekeeper Wayne Esaias, a researcher at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, "and that's why the nectar flows are so much earlier now.

I need to underscore that I have no evidence that global warming is a key player in colony collapse disorder. But it might be a contributor, and changes like this might be upping the stress level of our bee populations".


The phenomenon is particularly important for crops such as almond growing in California, where honey bees are the predominant pollinator and the crop value in 2006 was $1.5 billion.

In 2000, the total U.S. crop value that was wholly dependent on honey bee pollination was estimated to exceed $15 billion.

Honey bees are not native to the Americas, therefore their necessity as pollinators in the U.S. is limited to strictly agricultural/ornamental uses, as no native plants require honey bee pollination, except where concentrated in monoculture situations—where the pollination need is so great at bloom time that pollinators must be concentrated beyond the capacity of native bees (with current technology).

They are responsible for pollination of approximately one third of the United States' crop species, including such species as almonds, peaches, soybeans, apples, pears, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers and strawberries.

Many but not all of these plants can be (and often are) pollinated by other insects in small holdings in the U.S., including other kinds of bees (e.g., squash bees on cucurbits), but typically not on a commercial scale.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) or sometimes honey bee depopulation syndrome (HBDS) is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear.

While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, the term colony collapse disorder was first applied to a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in North America in late 2006.

Colony collapse is economically significant because many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by bees.

While some farmers of a few kinds of native crops do bring in honey bees to help pollinate, none specifically need them, and when honey bees are absent from a region, there is a presumption that native pollinators may reclaim the niche, typically being better adapted to serve those plants (assuming that the plants normally occur in that specific area).

However, even though on a per-individual basis, many other species are actually more efficient at pollinating, on the 30% of crop types where honey bees are used, most native pollinators cannot be mass-utilized as easily or as effectively as honey bees—in many instances they will not visit the plants at all.

Beehives can be moved from crop to crop as needed, and the bees will visit many plants in large numbers, compensating via saturation pollination for what they lack in efficiency. The commercial viability of these crops is therefore strongly tied to the beekeeping industry. In China, hand pollination of apple orchards is labor intensive, time consuming and costly.



Billions of Bees Dying Across North America - CBC News


Some researchers have commented that the pathway of
propagation functions in the manner of a contagious disease; however, there is some sentiment that the disorder may involve an immunosuppressive mechanism, potentially linked to the aforementioned "stress" leading to a weakened immune system.

Specifically, according to researchers at Penn State: "The magnitude of detected infectious agents in the adult bees suggests some type of immunosuppression".


These researchers initially suggested a connection between Varroa destructor mite infestation and CCD, suggesting that a combination of these bee mites, deformed wing virus (which the mites transmit) and bacteria work together to suppress immunity and may be one cause of CCD.

This research group is reported to be focusing on a search for possible viral, bacterial, or fungal pathogens which may be involved. When a colony is dying, for whatever cause, and there are other healthy colonies nearby (as is typical in a bee yard), those healthy colonies often enter the dying colony and rob its provisions for their own use.

If the dying colony's provisions were contaminated (by natural or man-made toxins), the resulting pattern (of healthy colonies becoming sick when in proximity to a dying colony) might suggest to an observer that a contagious disease is involved.

However, it is typical in CCD cases that provisions of dying colonies are not being robbed, suggesting that at least this particular mechanism (toxins being spread via robbing, thereby mimicking a disease) is not involved in CCD.

Additional evidence that CCD might be an infectious disease comes from the following observations: the hives of colonies that had died from CCD could be reused with a healthy colony only if they were first treated with DNA-destroying radiation, and the CCD Working Group report in 2010 indicated that CCD-exhibiting hives tended to occur in proximity to one another within apiaries.