Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) refers to the recent general die-off of honey bees worldwide. The causes of CCD may surprise you.
Healthy beehives may contain 10,000 to 60,000 bees, depending on the season and environmental factors. Traditionally, beekeepers expect to lose 20-25% of their bees each year. Bees are, after all, short-lived insects, that generally survive for only 4 or 5 months. Colony collapse disorder has doubled those losses.
Mysterious bee deaths
Colony collapse disorder is characterized by the mysterious disappearance of entire colonies of honey bees from their hives. Where there are normally visibly dead bees around a hive, bees affected by CCD have simply disappeared.
Unlike the rabble rousers who point to specific chemicals (neonicotinoids), corporations (Monsanto) or technologies (cell phone towers), researchers have discovered that CCD is the result of many factors.
The truth about bee losses
According to Dr. May Berenbaum, scientific spokesperson on Colony Collapse Disorder and head of the University of Illinois Entomology Department, explains that there are several factors leading to colony collapse:
• Honey bees are not native to North America. They were brought here from Europe a few centuries ago
• As the practice of beekeeping expanded, common bee pathogens and pests, specifically foulbrood and the varroa mite, led to the use of antibiotics, fungicides and miticides that can negatively impact honey bees while losing their efficacy against pests and disease
• Honey bees naturally lack many of the immunity and detoxification genes that the rest of us have
Honey bees do have the advantage of eating foods that boost the power of the protective genes they do have. Pollen increases the production of proteins that defend against pathogens and metabolizes toxic compounds. Don’t assume that those benefits extend to other species, such as us, because there is no scientific proof to back up all those popular claims.
Because there are several causes of colony collapse disorder, there is no single solution.
So what can you do to help honey bees? Plant flowers that honey bees like, avoid using broad spectrum pesticides, use chemicals according to their directions, buy locally produced honey, start beekeeping in your own yard, and stay informed.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!