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The Mysterious, Disappearing Honey Bee

Colony Collapse Disorder

Honey bees are disappearing. The story has been in the news on and off since 2006, but for one reason or another, most people have paid little attention. And the situation is significantly dire.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD), also known as honey bee colony depopulation syndrome, is essentially the sudden disappearance of honey bees from their colony. As more and more bees disappear, the colony fails and ultimately dies.

CCD has been taking its toll on commercial beekeeping worldwide. The first reports came from multiple locations within the U.S., but the phenomenon has spread across Europe and has even been reported in such far-flung locations as Taiwan and New Zealand.

A Honey BeeHaagen-Dazs, a maker of high end ice cream, sounded the alarm early in 2008, going so far as to donate $250,000 to CCD research and launch a new flavor, Vanilla Honey Bee, to raise awareness and more research funding. Their spokeswoman said that 40% of their 60 flavors, not to mention approximately one third of the U.S. food supply, is dependent on pollination by bees. If the bees die, so, ultimately, will the crops, and then everyone will be in trouble.

The problem is, even after three years and some intensive focus and funding by concerned groups, we still don’t really know what causes CCD. Numerous causes have been advanced – from insecticides to parasites to genetically modified crops to stress due to environmental changes. In April, Spanish scientists identified a type of fungus, Nosema ceranae, that appeared to be causing CCD in two commercial colonies they were studying. The researchers managed to cure them with the application of an antibiotic drug – thus identifying and curing at least one cause of CCD. But even this advance does not appear to be the panacean answer the agricultural and apiarian industries are desperately searching for.

There is a little good news, such as it is. From September 2008 to April 2009, according to a survey conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, overall U.S. honey bee colony losses from all sources, including CCD, were 30%. This figure is a slight improvement over the 36% of last season and the 32% the season before that. Unfortunately, such losses still bode ill for the economic stability of commercial crops that rely on honey bees for pollination and the $15 billion alone they add to the value of American crops each year.

Photo Credit: d70focus and wwarby at flickr

Written by Lisa Wojnovich


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  1. ooops… the photo is of a fly, not a bee (notice the large eyes, tiny stubby antennae, etc.). Honeybees also have “plates” (corbiculae) on their hind legs for carrying pollen.

  2. Bio manufactured Bacillus Thuringiensis is a pesticide which is attached to Herpes virus, Salmonella, Mouse Pox, E-Coli and more. All virus and bacteria mutate. If Bt cannot be stopped in the human body, perhaps not in the Bee either. Bt is used in 80% of the world and since 70% of the world’s honey bees are disappearing, these statistics are too close. Could it be that this bacteria attached to other vectors is causing Alzheimer;s world wide and causing Alzheimer’s in the Honey Bee? No. Carolina State University has published a manual of chemicals which are toxic to the Honey Bee. “Bt” formulas are included. “Bt” has a protective ring around it so the human body cannot encapsulate it and once in the body can find holes in which to multiply. Is anyone out there a health scientist as well as an entomologist? There may be a volcano ready to erupt. When a virus is added to a bacteria, you have two live dangers attached to one another. When you add the virus, you have a battering ram attached to the bacteria. which can penetrate the cell wall. Somebody do your homework and save the Bees. I am recovering from near death (carbon monoxide poisoning) so can only devote a little energy to this.
    Pray for us all and pray for the Bees.

  3. Bio manufactured Bt kills Bees. It may be causing Alzheimer’s disease in the Bees as well as humans.

  4. After watching a PBS documentary on the disappearance of the pollinating bees, I thought about growing up on my folks’ berry farm. They had 22 acres in Oregon of beautiful fruits, vegetables, plus a farm stand to sell them in. My dad mostly grew raspberries which yielded a bountiful harvest each season. One year I recall that my folks remarked that the honey we were selling in the stand had red streaks in it in many of the jars. My dad had an agreement with a beekeeper to place a few hives on our property near the berries. I don’t recall how many hives; probably more than 10, but less than 20. He used to watch the bees with great interest and report their behavior to us. The bees were ruining an entire crop of berries this one year. The beekeeper argued that bees go for blossoms & flowers, NOT fruit. He was wrong. The evidence was clear in their little red-filled bellies! My folks won this battle in court, if I recall. The proof was in the pudding, or in this case, in the honey.

    Flash way forward: after watching this documentary I started wondering why bees would voluntarily “load up” on berry juice? Maybe this indeed points to a diet deficiency; perhaps they needed a sort of “bee Gatorade?” Or, perhaps they were just too lazy to buzz off to where the blossoms were since the raspberries were closer. Who knows? It’s just a thought.

  5. I am a senior undergrad student at A&T University in North Carolina. I am writing a research paper on the various theories of our honey bee disappearance. I am very intrigued by what Pamela Dillon wrote in regards to the findings of NC State University. Could anyone direct me to this information please? I can be emailed at

    Thank you!

  6. Although pesticide use remains a concern, the major problem for wild pollinator populations (such as bees, wasps and the likes ) is the loss of the flower-rich habitat on which they depend for food. Throughout the northern hemisphere, the last 70 or so years has seen an intensification of agricultural systems which has decreased the abundance and diversity of wild flowers. So we would need to start growing plants and flowers again.

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