Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Is Colony Collapse Disorder Bee Gone? Catch A Bee Expert's Latest Buzz

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
"Beekeepers know that honey bees provide another service; as second-shift workers they pollinate one-third of the food we eat."  --The Healing Powers of Honey

Last night I was a guest on Coast to Coast A.M.  with host George Noory. While the topic was Quakes & Strange Sounds (even End Days), the subject of our shaky planet's vanishing honey bees aka "colony collapse disorder" was brought up, too. (I had to do it. After all, my latest book The Healing Powers of Honey (Kensington) is still abuzz.) 
Today, I received a message via email by an individual claiming that CCD is over. "There is a cure. Didn't I know that?" Uh no. I didn't. So, I contacted my trusty bee expert Dr. Eric Mussen. Here, take a look at his update:
Pesticides are one of many different stresses that bees are encountering in their environment.  However, similar, unexpected, total abandonment of hives continues to occur in commercial colonies and in some colonies kept by small scale (hobby) beekeepers.  We are seeing less of it, but it isn’t “gone.”
 * I’m not sure what that person’s cause of the day was, but if CCD is gone, we should all be told why.  Then, I could tell the folks who still have trouble with it how to straighten things out. ...two papers that demonstrated the effects of sublethal doses of neonicotinoid insecticides on honey bees, there could be the idea that those are the singular cause.  However, I think that exposing honey bees to sublethal doses of most insecticides would have measurable physiological and behavioral changes in the exposed bees.  So, the neonicotinoids are not likely to be any worse than the rest.  The commercial bees are living in a sea of chemical pollutants. 
* Beekeepers have been able to reduce what appears to be an every-other-year problem, with the even years beginning in 2006 the worse.  Colonies that are started from scratch (swarms, packages) or from “splits” or “divides” of larger colonies seem to be able to outrun their problems during that “build up” year.  But, if you don’t split them up the next year, they are much more likely to die over winter.  The problem with this approach is that the building populations are not large enough to rent for pollination or to produce a honey crop.  They are just able to make it through the next almond pollination, which is mandatory income for most commercial beekeepers.
 * Research has been refined since this problem was first brought to light.  For instance, now we are prodding into the roles of various “adjuvants” in the distribution and synergisms of pesticide effects on the bees.  If you wish to look at the names of some of those compounds, please go to my web page and read the Jan/Feb issue of my apiary newsletter.  There are two different references to some of the adjuvants that may be causing problems.
     And, in my book The Healing Powers of Honey, I devote a whole chapter "And the Bee's Buzz Goes On..." where I interviewed Dr. Mussen, Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, and hands-on, savvy beekeepers.  

UPDATE: "I side with Eric M.  -- multiple causes of CCD" -- Joe Traynor, agriculturist-author of Honey: The Gourmet Medicine


  1. Would not the colonies that are built from splits or divides continue to grow if the the splitting technique is used on these swarms continually?

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