There is an alarming decline in Bee Colonies around the world and multitudes of research point to Neonic chemicals and Glyphosphates, the herbicidal chemicals used in coordination with GMO crops. Many countries have banned the use of these dangerous toxic chemicals, but countries like the USA have not yet and it is taking it’s toll on our precious pollinators!
Below are several articles from around the web, valid websites including Wikipedia EPA, and USDA along with several others:
Colony collapse disorder
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Honey bees at a hive entrance: One is about to land and the other is fanning.
Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a European honey bee colony abruptly disappear. While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, and were known by various names (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease), the syndrome was renamed colony collapse disorder in late 2006 in conjunction with a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of western honeybee colonies in North America. 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%.
Colony collapse disorder is significant economically because many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by European honey bees. According to the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the worth of global crops with honeybee’s pollination was estimated to be close to $200 billion in 2005. Shortages of bees in the US have increased the cost to farmers renting them for pollination services by up to 20%.
The mechanisms of CCD and the reasons for its increasing prevalence remain unclear, but many possible causes have been proposed: pesticides, primarily neonicotinoids; infections with Varroa and Acarapis mites; malnutrition; various pathogens; genetic factors; immunodeficiencies; loss of habitat; changing beekeeping practices; or a combination of factors.
The mechanisms of CCD are still unknown, but many causes are currently being considered, such as pesticides, mites, fungus, beekeeping practices (such as the use of antibiotics or long-distance transportation of beehives), malnutrition, other pathogens, and immunodeficiencies. The current scientific consensus is that no single factor is causing CCD, but that some of these factors in combination may lead to CCD either additively or synergistically.
In 2006, the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group, based primarily at Pennsylvania State University, was established. Their preliminary report pointed out some patterns, but drew no strong conclusions. A survey of beekeepers early in 2007 indicated most hobbyist beekeepers believed that starvation was the leading cause of death in their colonies, while commercial beekeepers overwhelmingly believed invertebrate pests (Varroa mites, honey bee tracheal mites, and/or small hive beetles) were the leading cause of colony mortality. A scholarly review in June 2007 similarly addressed numerous theories and possible contributing factor, but left the issue unresolved.
In July 2007, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its “CCD Action Plan”, which outlined a strategy for addressing CCD consisting of four main components:
survey and data collection
analysis of samples
mitigation and preventive action
In July 2009, the first annual report of the U.S. Colony Collapse Disorder Steering Committee was published. It suggested CCD may be caused by the interaction of many agents in combination.
Similarly, in 2009, the CCD Working Group published a comprehensive descriptive study that concluded: “Of the 61 variables quantified (including adult bee physiology, pathogen loads, and pesticide levels), no single factor was found with enough consistency to suggest one causal agent. Bees in CCD colonies had higher pathogen loads and were co-infected with more pathogens than control populations, suggesting either greater pathogen exposure or reduced defenses in CCD bees.”
The second annual Steering Committee report was released in November 2010. The group reported, although many associations, including pesticides, parasites, and pathogens have been identified throughout the course of research, “it is becoming increasingly clear that no single factor alone is responsible for [CCD]”. Their findings indicated an absence of damaging levels of the parasite Nosema or parasitic Varroa mites at the time of collapse.
They did find an association of sublethal effects of some pesticides with CCD, including two common miticides in particular, coumaphos and fluvalinate, which are pesticides registered for use by beekeepers to control varroa mites. Studies also identified sublethal effects of neonicotinoids and fungicides, pesticides that may impair the bees’ immune systems and may leave them more susceptible to bee viruses.
Further information: Pesticide toxicity to bees, Imidacloprid effects on bee population and Bees and toxic chemicals
According to the USDA, pesticides may be contributing to CCD. A 2013 peer-reviewed literature review concluded neonicotinoids in the amounts typically used harm bees and safer alternatives are urgently needed. At the same time, other sources suggest the evidence is not conclusive, and that clarity regarding the facts is hampered by the role played by various issue advocates and lobby groups.
Scientists have long been concerned that pesticides and possibly some fungicides may have sublethal effects on bees, not killing them outright, but instead impairing their development and behavior. Of special interest is the class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, which contain the active ingredient imidacloprid, and similar other chemicals, such as clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Honey bees may be affected by such chemicals when they are used as a seed treatment because they are known to work their way through the plant up into the flowers and leave residues in the nectar. The doses taken up by bees are not lethal, but possible chronic problems could be caused by long-term exposure. Most corn grown in the US is treated with neonicoticoids, and a 2012 study found high levels of clothianidin in pneumatic planter exhaust. In the study, the insecticide was present in the soil of unplanted fields near those planted with corn and on dandelions growing near those fields. Another 2012 study also found clothianidin and imidacloprid in the exhaust of pneumatic seeding equipment.
A 2010 survey reported 98 pesticides and metabolites detected in aggregate concentrations up to 214 ppm in bee pollen; this figure represents over half of the individual pesticide incidences ever reported for apiaries. It was suggested that “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.”
Evaluating pesticide contributions to CCD is particularly difficult for several reasons. First, the variety of pesticides in use in the different areas reporting CCD makes it difficult to test for all possible pesticides simultaneously. Second, many commercial beekeeping operations are mobile, transporting hives over large geographic distances over the course of a season, potentially exposing the colonies to different pesticides at each location. Third, the bees themselves place pollen and honey into long-term storage, effectively meaning a delay may occur from days to months before contaminated provisions are fed to the colony, negating any attempts to associate the appearance of symptoms with the actual time at which exposure to pesticides occurred.
Pesticides used on bee forage are far more likely to enter the colony by the pollen stores rather than nectar (because pollen is carried externally on the bees, while nectar is carried internally, and may kill the bee if too toxic), though not all potentially lethal chemicals, either natural or man-made, affect the adult bees; many primarily affect the brood, but brood die-off does not appear to be happening in CCD. Most significantly, brood are not fed honey, and adult bees consume relatively little pollen; accordingly, the pattern in CCD suggests, if contaminants or toxins from the environment ‘are’ responsible, it is most likely to be via the honey, as the adults are dying (or leaving), not the brood (though possibly effects of contaminated pollen consumed by juveniles may only show after they have developed into adults).
To date, most of the evaluation of possible roles of pesticides in CCD have relied on the use of surveys submitted by beekeepers, but direct testing of samples from affected colonies seems likely to be needed, especially given the possible role of systemic insecticides such as the neonicotinoid imidacloprid (which are applied to the soil and taken up into the plant’s tissues, including pollen and nectar), which may be applied to a crop when the beekeeper is not present. The known effects of imidacloprid on insects, including honey bees, are consistent with the symptoms of CCD; for example, the effects of imidacloprid on termites include apparent failure of the immune system, and disorientation.
In Europe, the interaction of the phenomenon of “dying bees” with imidacloprid has been discussed for quite some time. A study from the “Comité Scientifique et Technique (CST)” was at the center of discussion, and led to a partial ban of imidacloprid in France. The imidacloprid pesticide Gaucho was banned in 1999 by the French Minister of Agriculture Jean Glavany, primarily due to concern over potential effects on honey bees. Subsequently, when fipronil, a phenylpyrazole insecticide and in Europe mainly labeled “Regent”, was used as a replacement, it was also found to be toxic to bees, and banned partially in France in 2004.
In February 2007, about 40 French deputies, led by Jacques Remiller of the UMP, requested the creation of a parliamentary investigation commission on overmortality of bees, underlining that honey production had decreased by 1,000 tons a year for a decade. By August 2007, no investigation had opened. Five other insecticides based on fipronil were also accused of killing bees. However, the scientific committees of the European Union are still of the opinion “that the available monitoring studies were mainly performed in France and EU-member-states should consider the relevance of these studies for the circumstances in their country”.
Around the same time French beekeepers succeeded in banning neonicotinoids, the Clinton administration permitted pesticides which were previously banned, including imidacloprid. In 2004, the Bush administration reduced regulations further and pesticide applications increased.
In 2005, a team of scientists led by the National Institute of Beekeeping in Bologna, Italy, found pollen obtained from seeds dressed with imidacloprid contain significant levels of the insecticide, and suggested the polluted pollen might cause honey bee colony death. Analysis of maize and sunflower crops originating from seeds dressed with imidacloprid suggest large amounts of the insecticide will be carried back to honey bee colonies. Sublethal doses of imidacloprid in sucrose solution have also been documented to affect homing and foraging activity of honey bees. Imidacloprid in sucrose solution fed to bees in the laboratory impaired their communication for a few hours. Sublethal doses of imidacloprid in laboratory and field experiment decreased flight activity and olfactory discrimination, and olfactory learning performance was impaired.
Research, in 2008, by scientists from Pennsylvania State University found high levels of the pesticides fluvalinate and coumaphos in samples of wax from hives, as well as lower levels of 70 other pesticides. These chemicals have been used to try to eradicate varroa mites, a bee pest that itself has been thought to be a cause of CCD. Researchers from Washington State University, under entomology professor Steve Sheppard in 2009, confirmed high levels of pesticide residue in hive wax and found an association between it and significantly reduced bee longevity.
The WSU work also focused on the impact of the microsporidian pathogen Nosema ceranae, the build-up of which was high in the majority of the bees tested, even after large doses of the antibiotic fumagillin. Penn State’s Dr. Maryann Frazier said, “Pesticides alone have not shown they are the cause of CCD. We believe that it is a combination of a variety of factors, possibly including mites, viruses and pesticides.”
In 2010, fipronil was blamed for the spread of CCD among bees, in a study by the Minutes-Association for Technical Coordination Fund in France, which found that even at very low nonlethal doses, this pesticide still impairs the ability to locate the hive, resulting in large numbers of foragers lost with every pollen-finding expedition, though no mention was made regarding any of the other symptoms of CCD; other studies, however, have shown no acute effect of fipronil on honey bees. Fipronil is designed to eliminate insects similar to bees, such as yellowjackets (Vespula germanica) and many other colonial pests by a process of ‘toxic baiting’, whereby one insect returning to the hive spreads the pesticide among the brood.
A large 2010 survey of healthy and CCD-affected colonies also revealed elevated levels of pesticides in wax and pollen, but the amounts of pesticides were similar in both failing and healthy hives. They also confirmed suspected links between CCD and poor colony health, inadequate diet, and long-distance transportation. Studies continue to show very high levels of pathogens in CCD-affected samples and lower pathogen levels in unaffected samples, consistent with the empirical observation that healthy honey bee colonies normally fend off pathogens. These observations have led to the hypothesis that bee declines are resulting from immune suppression.
In 2012, researchers announced findings that sublethal exposure to imidacloprid rendered honey bees significantly more susceptible to infection by the fungus Nosema, thereby suggesting a potential link to CCD, given that Nosema is increasingly considered to contribute to CCD.
Neonicotinoids may interfere with bees’ natural homing abilities, causing them to become disoriented and preventing them from finding their way back to the hive.
Also, in 2012, researchers in Italy published findings that the pneumatic drilling machines that plant corn seeds coated with clothianidin and imidacloprid release large amounts of the pesticide into the air, causing significant mortality in foraging honey bees. According to the study, “Experimental results show that the environmental release of particles containing neonicotinoids can produce high exposure levels for bees, with lethal effects compatible with colony losses phenomena observed by beekeepers.” Commonly used pesticides, such as the imidacloprid, reduce colony growth and new queen production in experimental exposure matched to field levels. Lu et al. (2012) reported they were able to replicate CCD with imidacloprid. Another neonicotinoid, thiamethoxam, causes navigational homing failure of foraging bees, with high mortality.
A 2012 in situ study provided strong evidence that exposure to sublethal levels of imidacloprid in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used to feed honey bees when forage is not available causes bees to exhibit symptoms consistent to CCD 23 weeks after imidacloprid dosing. The researchers suggested, “the observed delayed mortality in honey bees caused by imidacloprid in HFCS is a novel and plausible mechanism for CCD, and should be validated in future studies”.
In March 2013, two studies were published showing that neonicotinoids affect bee long-term and short-term memory, suggesting a cause of action resulting in failure to return to the hive. In another study done in 2013, scientists reported that experiments suggested that exposure to the neonicotinoid pesticides clothianidin and imidicloprid results in increased levels of a particular protein in bees that inhibits a key molecule involved in the immune response, making the insects more susceptible to attack by harmful viruses. Growth in the use of neonicotinoid pesticides has roughly tracked rising bee deaths. A 2013 peer reviewed literature review concluded that neonicotinoids in the amounts that they are typically used harm bees and that safer alternatives are urgently needed.
European Food Safety Authority statement
In 2012, several peer-reviewed independent studies were published showing that neonicotinoids had previously undetected routes of exposure affecting bees including through dust, pollen, and nectar and that subnanogram toxicity resulted in failure to return to the hive without immediate lethality, one primary symptom of CCD. Research also showed environmental persistence in agricultural irrigation channels and soil. These reports prompted a formal peer review by the European Food Safety Authority, which stated in January 2013 that some neonicotinoids pose an unacceptably high risk to bees, and identified several data gaps not previously considered. Their review concluded, “A high acute risk to honey bees was identified from exposure via dust drift for the seed treatment uses in maize, oilseed rape and cereals. A high acute risk was also identified from exposure via residues in nectar and/or pollen.” Dave Goulson, an author of one of the studies which prompted the EFSA review, has suggested that industry science pertaining to neonicotinoids may have been deliberately deceptive, and the UK Parliament has asked manufacturer Bayer Cropscience to explain discrepancies in evidence they have submitted to an investigation.
Neonicotinoids banned by European Union
Early in 2013, the European Food Safety Authority issued a declaration that three specific neonicotinoid pesticides pose an acute risk to honeybees, and the European Commission (EC) proposed a two-year ban on them. David Goulson, who led one of the key 2012 studies at the University of Stirling, said the decision “begs the question of what was going on when these chemicals were first approved.” The chemical manufacturer Bayer said it was “ready to work with” the EC and member states. In April 2013, the European Union voted for a two-year restriction on neonicotinoid insecticides. The ban will restrict the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam for use on crops that are attractive to bees. Eight nations voted against the motion, including the British government, which argued that the science was incomplete. The ban can be seen as an application of the “precautionary principle”, established at the 1992 Rio Conference on the Environment and Development, which advocates that “lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”. 
Initiatives to ban neonicotinoids in the United States
In March 2013, professional beekeepers and environmentalists jointly filed a lawsuit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for continuing to allow the use of neonicotinoids in the United States. The suit specifically asks for suspension of clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The lawsuit follows a dramatic die off of bees in the United States, with some beekeepers losing 50% of their hives. The EPA responded to the suit by issuing a report blaming the Varroa mite for the decline in bees and claiming the role of neonicotinoids in bee extinction has been overstated.
Also in 2013, the Save America’s Pollinators Act of 2013 (H.R. 2692) was introduced in Congress by Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. The proposed act, spearheaded by Representatives John Conyers (D, MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D, OR), and cosponsored by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D, CA) and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D, NH), asks that neonicotinoids be suspended until a full review of their impacts has occurred.
In 2010 a French study found that even at very low nonlethal doses, it still impairs the ability to locate the hive, resulting in large numbers of foragers lost with every pollen-finding expedition. Other studies, however, showed no acute effect of Fipronil on honey bees.
The EPA has several articles on Pollinator Protection:
Even Forbes posted an article about the colony collapse disorder:
The Cause Of Colony Collapse Disorder, Disappearing Bees Becoming More Clear
For the past eight years or so, we’ve been hearing the term “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD) to refer to the seemingly spontaneous abandonment of their hives by honeybees. Bees have been abandoning their hives for centuries, but the rate at which such collapses have been observed started to increase more drastically in the 1970s, reaching alarming proportions around 2006. While numerous causes for the phenomenon have been floated, from pathogens and parasites to electromagnetic radiation and a proliferation of genetically-modified crops, new research from the Harvard School of Public Health bolsters the case that a certain class of insecticides seem to be to blame.
Working with the Worcester County Beekeepers Association in Massachusetts, the researchers exposed 12 colonies across three locations to a “sub-lethal exposure of neonicotinoids, imidacloprid or clothianidin.” Neonicotinoids are popular insecticides that are chemically similar to nicotine. The scientists also observed six untreated control colonies at the same locations. The study found that all the bee colonies went about their business normally through the summer and fall, but by the end of winter six of the twelve hives exposed to the insecticide had been abandoned. One of the six control colonies was also lost due to an infestation by a fungus.
While a sample size of less than 20 colonies does not quite prove the link between certain insecticides and Colony Collapse Disorder beyond a doubt, it remains a compelling demonstration of the potential impact of neonicotinoids on honeybees. A similar study done in 2012 by some of the same researchers actually saw a much higher rate of collapse among hives treated with the insecticides, with 94 percent of the exposed colonies collapsing. Neonicotinoids are often used to prevent insects from destroying crops as early as at the time of planting, and could be carried within the plants and transferred to bees through pollen later in the growing season.
“We demonstrated again in this study that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD in honey bee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter,” said lead study author Chensheng (Alex) Lu of Harvard in a release. “Future research could help elucidate the biological mechanism that is responsible for linking sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposures to CCD… Hopefully we can reverse the continuing trend of honey bee loss.”
Neonicotinoids are currently banned in the European Union. Efforts to initiate a similar ban in the United States are also underway, and the Environmental Protection Agency is currently re-evaluating the pesticides.
We all get stung by bee colony collapse
Crops pollinated by bees include almonds, apples,apricots, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cashews,coffee, cranberries, cucumbers, eggplants, grapes,kiwis, mangoes, okra, peaches, pears, peppers,strawberries, tangerines, walnuts and watermelons.
Seeds coated with neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics, sprout into crops laced with the chemicals, which shut down the nervous system of any insect munching on the plant. The chemicals even make their way into nectar and pollen, which can dose bees with enough of the toxin to cause disorientation and a loss of ability to learn and communicate — crucial skills for a social insect. The poisons can be even stronger when store-shelf insecticides are used by home gardeners.Europe has temporarily banned neonics, but the insecticides remain widely available in the United States.
As stated from the USDA:
Honey Bee Health and Colony Collapse Disorder
Latest news about CCD:
Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health.
2013/2014 Survey Reports Fewer Winter Honey Bee Losses
Honey bees, which are a critical link in U.S. agriculture, have been under serious pressure from a mystery problem: Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is syndrome defined as a dead colony with no adult bees or dead bee bodies but with a live queen and usually honey and immature bees still present. No scientific cause for CCD has been proven.
But CCD is far from the only risk to the health of honey bees and the economic stability of commercial beekeeping and pollination operations in the United States. Since the 1980s, honey bees and beekeepers have had to deal with a host of new pathogens from deformed wing virus to nosema fungi, new parasites such as Varroa mites, pests like small hive beetles, nutrition problems from lack of diversity or availability in pollen and nectar sources, and possible sublethal effects of pesticides. These problems, many of which honey bees might be able to survive if each were the only one, are often hitting in a wide variety of combinations, and weakening and killing honey bee colonies. CCD may even be a result of a combination of two or more of these factors and not necessarily the same factors in the same order in every instance.
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s internal research agency, is leading several efforts into possible CCD causes and striving to enhance overall honey bee health by improving bee management practices, as well as studying honey bee diseases and parasites and how best to control them. In addition, a number of other Federal agencies and State departments of agriculture, universities, and private companies are conducting studies to seek the cause or causes of CCD.
Why Should the Public Care About What Happens to Honey Bees?
U.S. Honey Bee Losses
Cell Phones and CCD
Best Recommendation for Beekeepers
Best Recommendations for the Public
ARS News about CCD
Recent ARS CCD Scientific Publications
Annual Reports of CCD Research Progress
ARS Honey Bee Research Laboratories
In October 2006, some beekeepers began reporting losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. While colony losses are not unexpected, especially over the winter, this magnitude of losses was unusually high.
The main symptom of CCD is very low or no adult honey bees present in the hive but with a live queen and no dead honey bee bodies present. Often there is still honey in the hive, and immature bees (brood) are present. Varroa mites, a virus-transmitting parasite of honey bees, have frequently been found in hives hit by CCD.
This is not the first time that beekeepers are being faced with unexplained losses. The scientific literature has several mentions of honey bee disappearances—in the 1880s, the 1920s, and the 1960s. While the descriptions sound similar to CCD, there is no way to know for sure if those problems were caused by the same agents as CCD.
There have also been unusual colony losses before. In 1903, in the Cache Valley in Utah, 2000 colonies were lost to an unknown “disappearing disease” after a “hard winter and a cold spring.” More recently, in 1995-96, Pennsylvania beekeepers lost 53 percent of their colonies without a specific identifiable cause. Link to CCD Action Plan.
In June 2007, ARS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA’s extramural research grants agency, co-chaired a workshop of scientists and stakeholders to develop a Colony Collapse Disorder Action Plan. This plan identified areas where more information was needed and developed a research priority list for additional research projects related to finding the cause/causes of CCD.
Annual CCD Research Progress Reports
2012 CCD Progress Report
2011 CCD Progress Report
2010 CCD Progress Report
2009 CCD Progress Report
2007-2008 CCD Progress Report
Why Should the Public Care About What Happens to Honey Bees?
A honey bee, with pollen attached to its hind leg, pollinating a watermelon flower.Bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. Commercial production of many specialty crops like almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables depend on pollination by honey bees. These are the foods that give our diet diversity, flavor, and nutrition.
Honey bees are not native to the New World; they came from Europe with the first settlers. There are native pollinators in the United States, but honey bees are more prolific and easier to manage on a commercial level for pollination of a wide variety of crops. Almonds, for example, are completely dependent on honey bees for pollination. In California, the almond industry requires the use of 1.4 million colonies of honey bees, approximately 60 percent of all managed honey bee colonies in the United States.
U.S. Honey Bee Losses
The total number of managed honey bee colonies has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to only 2.5 million today. At the same time, the call for hives to provide pollination services has continued to increase. This means honey bee colonies are being transported over longer distances than ever before.
Varroa mites in a honey comb cell.Declines in honey bee colony health were exacerbated in the 1980s with the arrival of new pathogens and pests. The arrival of Varroa and tracheal mites into the United States during the 1990s created additional stresses on honey bees.
Colony losses from CCD are a very serious problem for beekeepers. Annual losses from the winter of 2006-2011 averaged about 33 percent each year, with a third of these losses attributed to CCD by beekeepers. The winter of 2011-2012 was an exception, when total losses dropped to 22 percent.
A 1-year drop is too short a time period to count as definitive improvement in honey bee colony survivorship. At least 2 to 3 years of consistently lower loss percentages is necessary before it is possible to be sure that CCD is on the decline.
The decrease in colony losses could be due to a number of different factors, among them:
The 2011-2012 winter was unusually warm and could have contributed to higher colony survival rates, although there is no scientific research connecting warmer winter weather and CCD. January 2012 ranks as the fourth warmest January in U.S. history, according to NOAA.
Research from ARS and other institutions has provided new management recommendations that beekeepers have begun to adopt. For example, it is now recommended that beekeepers feed honey bees more protein during times of nectar shortage such as during times of drought or in the winter. As part of this, ARS has developed a new bee diet, Megabee, now available to beekeepers. The feeding of supplemental nutrients may help to decrease winter colony losses.
Some diseases are naturally cyclical, and CCD could be at the point where its cause/causes have passed their peak. Or it is possible that colonies that survive could be developing a natural resistance to overcome the unknown cause/causes of CCD. Unfortunately, there is no scientific proof for either of these at this time.
If losses continue at the 33 percent level, it could threaten the economic viability of the bee pollination industry. Honey bees would not disappear entirely, but the cost of honey bee pollination services would rise, and those increased costs would ultimately be passed on to consumers through higher food costs. Now is the time for research into the cause and treatment of CCD before CCD becomes an agricultural crisis.
Survey Reports Latest Honey Bee Losses
2008, Germany revoked the registration of the neonicotinoid clothianidin for use on seed corn after an incident that resulted in the die-off of hundreds of nearby honey bees colonies. Investigation into the incident revealed that the die-off was caused by a combination of factors, including the failure to use a polymer seed coating known as a “sticker”: weather conditions that resulted in late planting of corn while nearby canola crops were in bloom, attracting honey bees; use of a particular type of air-driven equipment used to sow the seeds, which blew clothianidin-laden dust off the seeds and into the air as the seeds were ejected from the machine into the ground; dry and windy conditions at the time of planting, which blew the dust into the nearby canola fields where honey bees were foraging; and a higher application rate than had been authorized was used to treat for a severe root worm infestation.
Several studies that reported a negative impact on honey bees by neonicotinoids relied on large, unrealistic doses and gave bees no other choice for pollen, and therefore did not reflect risk to honey bees under real world conditions. Nor have the studies demonstrated a direct connection or correlation to CCD.
ARS entomologist Jay Evans inspects a comb of honey bees.There have been scientific findings that imply that neonicotinoids have sublethal effects on honey bees at approved doses and exposures. ARS scientists and other researchers are looking into whether such sublethal effects may correlate with CCD or other bee health problems and whether they could be a contributing cause of CCD.
ARS held a workshop with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in early 2010 to discuss how potential sublethal effects could be documented summarized in Pesticide Risk Assessment for Pollinators: Summary of a SETAC Pellston Workshop.
ARS researchers also have been analyzing samples from healthy and CCD-struck colonies and applying a variety of stressors from the four categories of possible causes to colonies in hopes of provoking a colony response that duplicates CCD.
While a number of potential causes have been championed by a variety of researchers and interest groups, none of them have stood up to detailed scrutiny. Every time a claim is made of finding a “smoking gun,” further investigation has not been able to make the leap from a correlation to cause-and-effect. Other times, not even a scientific correlation has been demonstrated in the study claiming to have found “the cause” of CCD.
Researchers have concluded that no one factor is the cause of CCD. Most likely, CCD is caused by multiple factors. It is not possible to know at this time if all CCD incidents are due to the same set of factors or if the factors follow the same sequence in every case.
Two honey bees on a comb.One explanation for CCD being studied is that a perfect storm of environmental stresses may unexpectedly weaken colonies, leading to collapse when the colonies are exposed to the additional stress of a pathogen, parasite, and/or pesticide. Stress, in general, compromises the immune system of bees (and other social insects) and may disrupt their social system, making colonies more susceptible to disease.
Studies are being conducted by ARS scientists and collaborators to look at the combined impact of two or more factors on honey bees—most recently the impact of exposure to the neonicotinoid imidacloprid and Nosema. While the dual exposure indicated some sublethal effects on individual honey bees, the overall health of the colony did not show an adverse effect.
Cell Phones and CCD
Despite a great deal of attention having been paid to the idea, neither cell phones nor cell phone towers have been shown to have any connection to CCD or poor honey bee health.
Originally, the idea was provoked by the media making a connection between CCD and a very small study done in Germany. But that study looked at whether a particular type of base station for cordless phones could affect honey bee homing systems. However, despite all the attention that this study has received, the base station has nothing to do with CCD. Stefan Kimmel, the researcher who conducted the study and wrote the paper, e-mailed The Associated Press to say that there is “no link between our tiny little study and the CCD-phenomenon … Anything else said or written is a lie.”
In addition, apiaries are often located in rural areas, where cell phone coverage can be spotty. This makes cell phones or cell towers unlikely culprits.
Best Recommendation for Beekeepers
Since little is known for sure about the cause(s) of CCD, mitigation must be based on improving general honey bee health and habitat and countering known mortality factors by using best management practices. This includes supplemental feeding in times of nectar/pollen scarcity.
Best Recommendations for the Public
Honey bee flies to a flower.The best action the public can take to improve honey bee survival is not to use pesticides indiscriminately. In particular, the public should avoid applying pesticides during mid-day hours, when honey bees are most likely to be out foraging for nectar and pollen on flowering plants.
In addition, the public can plant pollinator-friendly plants—plants that are good sources of nectar and pollen such as red clover, foxglove, bee balm, joe-pye weed, and other native plants. (For more information, visit www.nappc.org.)
ARS News about CCD
Colony Collapse Disorder: An Incomplete Puzzle
Agricultural Research magazine July 2012
Colony Collapse Disorder: A Complex Buzz
Agricultural Research magazine May/June 2008
Pathogen Loads Higher in Bee Colonies Suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder
Honey Bees with Colony Collapse Disorder Show their Genes
Still Seeking a Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder
Imported Bees Not Source of Virus Associated with Colony Collapse Disorder
Genetic Survey Finds Association Between CCD and Virus
Recent ARS CCD scientific publications
Crop pollination exposes honey bees to pesticides which alters their susceptibility to the gut pathogen Nosema ceranae, PLoS One, July 2013
Pathogen webs in collapsing honey bee colonies, PLoS One, August 2012
Pesticide exposure in honey bees results in increased levels of the gut pathogen, Naturwissenschaften, February 2012
Predictive markers of honey bee colony collapse, PLoS One, February 2012
Coordinated responses to honey bee decline in the USA, Apidologie, May-June 2010
High levels of miticides and agrochemicals in North American apiaries: Implications for honey bee health, PLoS One, March 2010
Weighing risk factors associated with bee colony collapse disorder by classification and regression tree analysis, Journal of Economic Entomology, October 2010
Changes in gene expression relating to colony collapse disorder in honey bees, Apis mellifera, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 2009
ARS Honey Bee Research
Bee Research Laboratory
CCD overview: http://ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=15908
Carl Hayden Bee Research Center
Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit
Baton Rouge, LA
Non-Honey Bee Pollinators
Pollinating Insect Biology, Management, Systematics Research Laboratory
More information about CCD can be found at:
Mid Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium
Details of the Colony Collapse Disorder Action Plan are available in PDF (portable document format).