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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hive and Seek: Where Have the Honeybees Gone?




According to a new article posted at the http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=earth-talks-hive-and-seek, entitled "Hive and Seek:Where have the Honeybees Gone?", scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), now believe Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD) may be
caused by the fact that “pesticides may be having unexpected negative effects on honey bees," or the disorder may be a consequence of  "yet unknown parasites, pathogens or viruses (which) could also be wreaking havoc on bee colonies."
Studies have also indicated that poor management of populations of commercial honey bees—including inadequate diet and long distance transportation -may play a role."

"In one study, researchers from Columbia University isolated the presence of a virus—the so-called Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus—in upwards of 96 percent of the hives studied that were affected by CCD. Other studies point to widespread use of Imidacloprid, a common grub-control chemical used on lawns and farms and which has already been banned in France due to its alleged effect on bees. But finding a single cause of CCD seems unlikely, and ARS researchers point to the possibility of “a perfect storm of existing stresses” weakening colonies to the point of collapse..."

The fact that scientific experts have not been able to come up with some sort of "good" explanation for CCD, which could lead to action against the disorder to prevent the death of honey bees, certainly is troubling. With a third of farm production dependent upon the pollination activities of bees, one has to wonder
what affect over the long run CCD will have if some measures are not successful in
dealing with this disorder.

 Simon Wilson, in his article, "Where have the bees gone" (source: http://www.moneyweek.com/investment-advice/how-to-invest/where-have-all-the-bees-gone.aspx) states, "Originally used purely for honey, beekeeping nowadays produces pollen, royal jelly and propolis (used for nutritional and medicinal purposes), and beeswax (used in making candles, cosmetics, wood polish and in modelling). Without bees carrying pollen from plant to plant as they gather nectar to make honey, hundreds of types of flowers, fruits and vegetables would die out. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the horticulturalist Philip Miller recognised that pollen was not spread by the wind, but by bees. A few years later, scientists realised that flowering plants (including fruit and vegetables) produced nectar specifically to attract pollinating insects to spread their seeds. This threat, of humans going hungry or having to adapt to a world without vegetables and fruit, is why colony collapse disorder is drawing such attention." The fact that CCD is affecting bees in North America,  and also "hitting Europe, with severe losses in Poland, Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Switzerland,....Brazil, Guatemala and the United Kingdom (where some beekeepers have seen catastrophic collapses of more than 50% of colonies, especially in southeast England.)," is extremely worrisome.

"Diana Cox-Foster, a US entomologist investigating the crisis, says the range of possible theories - pesticides, malnutrition, antibiotics, mites, rising solar radiation - is 'mind-boggling'. Some say commercial practices may be to blame - US bees do not appear to like being transported around the country - but this cannot explain all cases. Scientists are focusing on the three most likely suspects: a virus, a fungus or a pesticide (a class known as neonicotinoids is of particular concern)."

Simon Wilson concludes his discusssion by stating some very troublesome facts and conclusions:
"The world’s bee population is already down about 60% since 1970. And even before colony collapse appeared six months ago, an American Academy of Sciences panel concluded that bees were suffering from so many diseases that beekeeping may die out as a business by 2035!!

As  Seth Borenstein, stated in an article to Associated Press, (source http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/05/03/952)


"Honeybees don't just make honey; they pollinate more than 90 of the tastiest flowering crops we have. Among them: apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash and cucumbers. And lots of the really sweet and tart stuff, too, including citrus fruit, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and other melons.
In fact, about one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Even cattle, which feed on alfalfa, depend on bees. So if the collapse worsens, we could end up being "stuck with grains and water," said Kevin Hackett, the national program leader for USDA's bee and pollination program."

Pulitzer Prize-winning insect biologist E.O. Wilson of Harvard said the honeybee is nature's "workhorse - and we took it for granted."
"We've hung our own future on a thread," Wilson, author of the book "The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth," told The Associated Press.

Let us hope that the best scientific minds can sort out Colony Collapse disorder,before we humans have to eat  breads, pastas, and cereals for our three meals a day!

 Source of image:Lela Dowling/Bee Culture magazine


2 comments:

BestBeekeeping said...

A very good & well researched analysis of the honey bee & colony collapse disorder.
One of the most worrying aspects of CCD is that there does not seem to be any one cause. Experts seem to be moving towards the theory that the cause is a combination of all the factors you identified, creating the 'perfect storm.' If this is the case, it will be much more difficult if not impossible to get a quick fix solution.

Wayne said...

Hi and thank you for visiting my blog. I would like to express my gratitude to you for your kind words
regarding my analysis. I took an entomology course in University and also have always had a love of animals and a desire to find out as much as I could about a situation or circumstance to fully understand all the issues relating to a problem.
I also know someone who is a professional beekeeper,and he has told me about his situation regarding CCD,and we have talked about CCD at length. Best wishes to you,lets hope scientists and beekeepers can find the reasons for the existence of CCD in the very near future.

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