Bee Colonies Continue to Collapse

Posted on May 3, 2010  Comments (2)

The activity to find the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder provides a view into the scientific inquiry process of complex living systems. Finding answers is not easy.

Fears for crops as shock figures from America show scale of bee catastrophe

Disturbing evidence that honeybees are in terminal decline has emerged from the United States where, for the fourth year in a row, more than a third of colonies have failed to survive the winter.

The decline of the country’s estimated 2.4 million beehives began in 2006, when a phenomenon dubbed colony collapse disorder (CCD) led to the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of colonies. Since then more than three million colonies in the US and billions of honeybees worldwide have died and scientists are no nearer to knowing what is causing the catastrophic fall in numbers.

It is estimated that a third of everything we eat depends upon honeybee pollination.

Potential causes range from parasites, such as the bloodsucking varroa mite, to viral and bacterial infections, pesticides and poor nutrition stemming from intensive farming methods.

“We believe that some subtle interactions between nutrition, pesticide exposure and other stressors are converging to kill colonies,” said Jeffery Pettis, of the ARS’s bee research laboratory.

“It’s getting worse,” he said. “The AIA survey doesn’t give you the full picture because it is only measuring losses through the winter. In the summer the bees are exposed to lots of pesticides. Farmers mix them together and no one has any idea what the effects might be.” Pettis agreed that losses in some commercial operations are running at 50% or greater.

High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for Honey Bee Health (open access paper on the topic, March 2010)

The 98 pesticides and metabolites detected in mixtures up to 214 ppm in bee pollen alone represents a remarkably high level for toxicants in the brood and adult food of this primary pollinator. This represents over half of the maximum individual pesticide incidences ever reported for apiaries. While exposure to many of these neurotoxicants elicits acute and sublethal reductions in honey bee fitness, the effects of these materials in combinations and their direct association with CCD or declining bee health remains to be determined.

Related: Solving the Mystery of the Vanishing BeesVirus Found to be One Likely Factor in Bee Colony Colapse DisorderBye Bye Bees

2 Responses to “Bee Colonies Continue to Collapse”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » White House Bee Hive
    July 4th, 2010 @ 8:56 am

    [...] Bee Colony Collapse Continues – Virus Found to be One Likely Factor in Bee Colony Collapse Disorder – President Obama [...]

  2. Study of the Colony Collapse Disorder Continues as Bee Colonies Continue to Disappear » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    February 25th, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    [...] Bee Colonies Continue to Collapse (2010) – Continuing Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (2009) – Scientists Search for Clues To Bee [...]

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