Colony Collapse Disorder

WestEnder(z7 Atlanta GA)February 12, 2007

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I was just forwarded a news article about a mysterious bee ailment killing large numbers of bee colonies. It's being called colony collapse disorder. Has anyone personally seen signs of this?

Here is a link that might be useful: Feb 11 2007 Associated Press article about bee disease

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Thanks for the update, I'm passing it along.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 8:56AM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

You can download the Penn State report on Fall-Dwindle Disease at

Very interesting, if scary, reading.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fall-Dwindle Disease report

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 11:13PM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

Whoops, I forgot to add that Colony Collapse Disorder and Fall-Dwindle Disease are the same thing.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 11:16PM
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This is scary! I wonder if I'll see any honey bees this year. I started seeing them again in limited numbers last summer. God, that is scary. I think honey bees are so cute! We have lots of white clover in our lawn for them too. I hope they don't become extinct!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 10:11PM
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thisbud4u(San Diego)

I don't know how long this will be on the NY Times page--very good general article on CCD. I hope that the exposure in the world's premier newspaper will turn some heads and stimulate some research towards finding a cure.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 1:28AM
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Great article! Here's the text in case the article becomes deleted from their site:

Op-Ed Contributor
Losing Their Buzz
Published: March 2, 2007
Urbana, Ill.

Skip to next paragraph
Frank Stockton
WHEN Hollywood filmmakers want to heighten the tension of an insect fear film, they just arrange for millions of killer bees to appear out of nowhere to threaten a vulnerable group of people over the years, these have included children in a school bus, celebrants at a Mardi Gras parade and people living near a nuclear power plant.

But people from all demographic groups across the country are facing a much more frightening real-life situation: the disappearance of millions of bees. This winter, in more than 20 states, beekeepers have noticed that their honeybees have mysteriously vanished, leaving behind no clues as to their whereabouts. There are no tell-tale dead bodies either inside colonies or out in front of hives, where bees typically deposit corpses of dead nestmates.

WhatÂs more, the afflicted colonies tend to be full of honey, pollen and larvae, as if all of the workers in the nest precipitously decamped on some prearranged signal. Beekeepers are up in arms  last month, leaders in the business met with research scientists and government officials in Florida to figure out why the bees are disappearing and how to stop the losses. Nobody had any answers.

That beekeepers are alarmed over this situation is understandable, but, just as in the movies, the public may not recognize the magnitude of the threat that these mysterious events present.

A decline in the numbers of Apis melllifera, the worldÂs most widely distributed semi-domesticated insect, doesnÂt just mean a shortage of honey for toast and tea. In fact, the economic value of honey, wax and other bee products is trivial in comparison with the honeybeeÂs services as a pollinator. More than 90 crops in North America rely on honeybees to transport pollen from flower to flower, effecting fertilization and allowing production of fruit and seed. The amazing versatility of the species is worth an estimated $14 billion a year to the United States economy.

Approximately one-third of the typical AmericanÂs diet (primarily the healthiest part) is directly or indirectly the result of honey bee pollination. Production of almonds in California, a $2 billion enterprise, is almost entirely dependent on honey bees. Every year beekeepers transport millions of bees around the country to meet the ever-growing need for pollination services for almonds, apples, blueberries, peaches and other crops. This year it is possible that there wonÂt be enough bees to meet the demand for pollinators.

Theories abound as to potential causes of what is being called colony collapse disorder. As a social species living in close quarters at high densities  the average hive contains upwards of 30,000 insects  honeybees are prone to a staggering diversity of fungal, bacterial and viral diseases. In the 1980s, honeybee numbers plummeted when two species of parasitic mites appeared, wiping out most populations of wild bees and placing more pressure on managed colonies. This latest drop in numbers may be the consequence of a new infection, or of several diseases simultaneously, leading to a fatally compromised immune system.

It is also possible that severe stress brought on by crowding, inadequate nutrition or even the combined effects of prophylactic antibiotics and miticides sprayed by beekeepers to ward off infections may be a factor. Another, particularly sad, possibility is that accidental exposure to a new pesticide may cause non-lethal behavioral changes that interfere with the ability of honeybees to orient and navigate; brain-damaged foraging bees may simply get lost on their way home and starve to death away from the hive.

Irrespective of its causes, however, this drop comes at a critical time, with demand for pollination services rocketing upward. Even in a high-tech age when the human capacity to improve upon nature seems limitless, there is no satisfactory substitute for the honeybee. Thus itÂs astonishing that beekeeping remains largely unimproved by technological advances relative to just about every other form of animal husbandry. The basic design of honey bee housing is essentially unchanged since L. L. Langstroth patented his movable frame hive in 1852; artificial insemination of queens, the last significant technological advance in beekeeping, was introduced early in the 20th century. The 21st century holds great promise for innovation.

Page 2 of 2)

Last October, an international consortium of scientists announced the publication of the sequence of the entire honey bee genome. Among the benefits of knowing the full gene inventory is that it has allowed the construction of a whole-genome microarray  essentially a microscope slide dotted with genetic material  here at the University of Illinois.

Microarray analysis is a powerful tool for examining differences among a very large number of genes rapidly and efficiently; itÂs the basis for new diagnostic tools, for example, for clinical evaluation of many forms of cancer. For bees, microarray analysis of differences between healthy and afflicted bees may reveal the causes and provide insights for developing a cure.

The real key to dealing with colony collapse disorder, however, is understanding the extent of the problem, which may prove to be more of a challenge than figuring out its origins. Although Americans are in general good at counting things of value, weÂve done an absolutely appalling job at counting our bees and other pollinators.

In October, I served as chair of a committee for the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, on the status of pollinators in North America. Among the clearest conclusions of our report was that Americans do not keep track of pollinators, even the one on which much of our agriculture depends.

For example, the Department of AgricultureÂs statistics service has kept records of honeybee colonies managed by beekeepers since 1947, but the annual survey monitors only colonies used in honey production. Colonies used exclusively for pollination are not included, nor do surveys take into account the fact that some honey-producing colonies travel. The Agriculture Department also doesnÂt track bees kept by small-scale beekeepers with fewer than five colonies.

No current survey monitors colony health or variability in bee numbers over the season, a critical variable for assessing population dynamics as well as economic effects of fluctuations. Although the Agriculture Department surveys beekeeping operations every five years using criteria that address some of these issues, five years between surveys provides ample time for irreparable damage to occur before a problem can be recognized.

Conspicuous among the recommendations from the National Research Council committee was a call for the department to make annual bee assessments, with winter losses monitored, general health assessed and pollination services quantified.

Moreover, no system is in place to monitor feral bees  those that escape from managed colonies yet contribute critical pollination services to both wild plants and farms. We need long-term monitoring of feral honeybees along with other pollinators if we are to understand the true magnitude of pollination services essential for a healthy agricultural economy.

We count our pigs, our cows and our chickens (even before they hatch). The Agriculture Department, amid concerns about infectious disease and agro-terrorism, has even proposed establishing a national animal identification system, under which it could trace the origin of any animal in the food chain within 48 hours.

Yet honeybees, which contribute to our food chain in many more ways than any other animal species (and whose pollination makes available the alfalfa and clover processed into hay to feed beef and dairy cattle), are disappearing without a trace at a rate we canÂt even measure accurately. Such obliviousness with respect to a precious resource in crisis might play well in a bad science fiction movie, but itÂs truly alarming to see it in real life.

May R. Berenbaum, head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois, is the author of "Buzzwords: A Scientist Muses on Sex, Bugs and Rock Ân Roll."

    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 5:29PM
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After reading about this last week on the BBC, I looked for my usual honeybees this weekend that are usually covering the pansies anytime its warm and sunny (winter or not, they were there in December on the warm days). I didn't see any. It was about 60F, so I would have expected them to be out. I used to buy honey from a local shop that said it came from a street near my house, I will sure miss my local bees and their honey if they are gone.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 2:16PM
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WestEnder(z7 Atlanta GA)

Dragonplant has hit the nail on the head for me, expressing my worst fears. I've been seeing story after story about this problem crop up in all the papers I read online, but all of the articles focus on commercial bee keepers and their practice of taking bees around to pollinate orchards and commercial farms. What concerns me (in addition to that) is whether wild bees are also going to be affected by whatever this is. Common sense tells me they probably will, although I did read in one article that some wild bees seem not to be affected to the same degree (maybe because they're not being fed corn syrup, and not being given medicines? both of which probably aren't really good for them? I'm just guessing). In the last few years I've seen fewer and fewer actual honeybees, anyway, but I've read that one out of every two "bites" of food we eat come to us courtesy of honebees. So an absence of honeybees, wild or otherwise, might affect us all greatly, whether we are growing commercially or as home gardeners, or growing anything ourselves at all. After all, we all need to eat.

It's still early in the year, but dragonplant's observation makes me sad. My blueberry bushes are budding now, and I can only hope that there will be some bees around when the flowers open. I also hope people will continue to write with their own observations - especially if they begin to see some bees!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 2:44PM
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Well here's where somebody's bees went. How can the media be reporting on missing bees in the US all the way to India and China, and people still gas a swarm for no reason?! Florida is even one of the states they are missing in! This makes me mad!

westender, when I lived in the suburbs, I hardly saw any honeybees the whole 5 years I lived there. Since I moved out in the woods though, I always had plenty of both them and bumblebees. So many I even noticed there seemed to be a ton of them on my flowers for the past year and a half I've lived there (the local honey explained that)....last weekend though, none, that makes me sad too.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 2:52PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

This is not happening in Canada yet, but I'm sure it's a madder of time.
I'm just guessing here, it could be another disease what started in a large commercial operation, like anything else we produce in large scale.
It's just no good!
I'm more in favour in promoting small scale and limit the size of commercials.
Just my thought.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 8:01PM
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terran(zone10/Sunset20 CA)


I used to keep bees. My beekeeping buddy and I had 50 hives at one time, so could be considered hobbyists. That being said, I drop in on this forum every once in awhile to see what is happening in order to keep up.

After reading this post the other day, I decided that I should pay more attention to the bees while I'm out and about. Yesterday, I looked for bees on the Sweet Alyssum that blooms abundantly here all year around and is attractive to them - no bees. Today, I checked an apricot tree that is in full bloom - maybe a dozen bees - if that. I also checked an Asian pear that is in mid bloom - two bees. The native Ceanothus also known as wild lilac is in bloom, but there are no bees to be found.

It would seam that the bees that remain are being very selective as to what they will forage upon. Avocados are a cash crop in this area and the bees are known not to like to work the blossoms, so I would expect that with what I have observed in the last two days there is potential for a significant crop reduction.

In past years there have been so many bees out working the native costal woodland habitat that the sound that they made was reminiscent of the drone of squadrons of propeller driven aircraft that populate old WWI movies. It is a bit early for the catkins on the oak, but I'll be sure to pay attention this year.

The only hopeful bit of information to report is that there is a swarm at the nearby elementary school that is being left alone. The area has been roped off to protect it and the children.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 5:19PM
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WestEnder(z7 Atlanta GA)


Thanks so much for your report, although it's very frightening news.

Here at my house in Atlanta, Georgia, I did see my first bee of the year last weekend. A single bee. I think I should be seeing lots more, but since I've never actually been in the habit of doing a head count, I can't say with certainty. I saw a few bumblebees, but only one honeybee.

My oldest and most mature blueberry bush is in full bloom and I have seen no pollinators on it at all, which I know is not normal. I'm still hoping for berries, but not counting on them this year.

I will definitely take this situation into consideration in deciding what vegetables to plant this year, maybe selecting more things that are pollinated by things other than bees, or that are not fruiting. More lettuce, anyone??

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 5:28PM
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macbirch(ACT Aust)

I came here from a link on GardenParty. This is so sad.

Dragonplant, how big can a swarm get? We had one on a conifer in our garden many years ago. It was a bit scary when I first noticed it but I mentioned it at work and somebody said just leave it alone and they'll move on in two or three days and they did. The alternative was to find a beekeeper who might want to collect them. I suppose if the swarm is very large and in a bad location then just waiting might not be acceptable but I can't understand why the bees can't be collected?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 11:09PM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

I have definitely noticed the decline in my garden. I have see just two bee's this year one of which was a carpenter bee. I have a cottage garden and usually have many bee's especially on the crimson clover which is in full bloom right now.

What can we do?


    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 1:30PM
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bunky(z6 OH)

I've had a bee hive in my tree for years. This week has been the first "warm" week we've had up here, and I've yet to see any bees. I'm concerned as I've gone by the tree and I see NO activity whatsoever. They have an entrance hole into the base of the tree and then the main entrance is about two feet up. Would they still be deep down in the tree or are they gone?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 3:35PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

At any warm spill in winter, if it's above freezing, bees come out for cleansing flight.
It looks like they are gone, that's too bad!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 1:50AM
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ksfarmer(z5/Ks NC Kansas)

Just read an article in Der Spiegel, German paper. The article included this quote: Albert Einstein quote: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
The article in "Der Spiegel" discusses the possibility that GMO crops may have some responsibility for the disappearance of bees.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 10:49PM
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"Das ist" an interesting concept from Albert Einstien!
Pardon my German ;)
But what is a GMO crop?


    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 9:24AM
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WestEnder(z7 Atlanta GA)

GMO's are genetically modified organisms. You've probably heard of some of these - soybeans, corn and alfalfa that have pesticides and herbicides genetically implanted somehow in the seed itself so that as the plant grows, the farmer doesn't ever have to spray the fields to kill weeds or insects because the plant produces the pesticide or herbicide itself. I've read recently that the amount of pesticide/herbicide material produced by such GMO plants is far, far greater than what any farmer would ever apply manually to his fields, because the plants produce it constantly as part of their daily growth process instead of only occasionally, as the farmer would have applied them to his fields. Also, I've read that the GMO crop plants can continue to produce these substances even after the crop has been harvested and the rubble is lying in the field or has been turned under.

The articles I've read are unsure about how GMO's may be affecting bees because the science is so new and no one really understands yet how GMO's affect any of us. It's all speculative, but to my mind, common sense says these things aren't natural or good. Many European nations have outlawed GMO's and I've been wondering whether bees in Europe are affected by this colony collapse disorder.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 9:40AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

So, hypothetically speaking, a corn crop could be genetically modified so that all its parts kill insects (including bees) and since corn is wind pollinated it would be deemed relatively safe for bees. That is, until the wind blown corn pollen attaches itself to other flowers downwind or the beekeeper feeds corn syrup to his over-wintering bees.

Who's policing these GMO guys anyway?

The strangest part to this puzzle to me is the lack of bodies. It seems much more often than not the bees simply disappear. Its almost as if something in the hive is repulsing them or disorienting them.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 8:01PM
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Fyi - here's a link to the Der Spiegel article via another site.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 8:25AM
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Fyi, the following link is a critical look at gmo's.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 9:30AM
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bandit_tx(z7-8 TX)

Sevin dust is far more likely to kill a beehive than a GMO. The colonies described are largely migratory colonies subjected to great stress. My bees and many others are reporting no problems at all. Spreading false gloom and doom and blaming sources without evidence isn't helping. Bees have been dying in the wild and in aparies for the last 10 years from varroa mites, tracheal mites, and small hive beetles, all imported from other areas of the globe.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 4:17PM
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I Have been working bees for 13 years this CCD is scare stuff I was lucky this year all of my hive made it throw.
I work at a Nature center and we also run a Observation hive, I do not know if it is related but the hive had Novema, but they acted differently on vary cold days bees would go crazy and go running out and fly right into the snow. the only way I kept them alive was to block the tube on cold days. and then gave them some brood from one of my other hives. They are slowly coming back. maybe it has somthing to do with the Novema that is making they run out of the hives.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 11:36PM
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terran(zone10/Sunset20 CA)

Published on Saturday April 7, 2007 by Agence France Presse

Mysterious Disappearance of US Bees Creating a Buzz

"US beekeepers have been stung in recent months by the mysterious disappearance of millions of bees threatening honey supplies as well as crops which depend on the insects for pollination.Bee numbers on parts of the east coast and in Texas have fallen by more than 70 percent, while California has seen colonies drop by 30 to 60 percent." ...

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 2:20PM
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Yes. I have head of Colony collapse Disorder. The Montgomery County Texas Master Gardeners keep about 10 hives to service their extensive gardens and orchards they maintain on county grounds...All 10 hives died out this year. We just introduced (today) two queens and some workers into two hives. Too soon to say if this will work.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 7:43PM
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I read an article about more and more frogs becoming extinct, they claim it has to do with some almost invisible fungus. I wonder if the bees are encountering it too. They claim that the honey from the hives abandoned are often untouched, and no other predators eat the honey. I wonder if the fungus is somehow affecting the bees or their honey....

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 10:50PM
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bandit_tx(z7-8 TX)

Montgomery County Texas Master Gardeners -- are you treating or doing IPM for varroa mites? Any sign of SHB? Were there sufficient stores for the winter? When did they die, fall, winter, early spring brood rearing? No longer can you throw bees in a hive and expect they will be there in a year or two. If you don't have a beekeeper working with you, I suggest you find one. If you do and still lost your bees, well it happens to the best of us at times.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 10:35AM
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littledog(z7 OK)

What is Novema? I tried searching on Google, but the results were inconclusive.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 9:54PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

How about Nosema?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 10:18PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Many theories and speculations are proposed as to potential causes(s).

You'll find up-to-date info at the web site of the CDD Working Group at Penn State.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 4:13PM
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Just before Easter weekend my 8yo DD saw ONE bee. I asked her what it was doing.......she said it was on the ground and it was "gasp" dying.
Incidentally, this has been the ONLY bee we have seen in our yard to date.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 10:33PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

Lots of bad journalism and "bad science" in papers like the London "Independent" (ie, always good for a laugh) and Stern, better know for topless models on the cover.

Research continues, and while this hits migratory pollinating beekeepers hard, it doesn't seem to impact hobby beekeepers. I had a about a 25% winter loss here in Indiana, where we have not had a confirmed case of CCD at all...

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 10:21PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

The following was on the AOL newpage today:

Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons

BELTSVILLE, Md., April 23 What is happening to the bees?

More than a quarter of the country's 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost -- tens of billions of bees, according to an estimate from the Apiary Inspectors of America, a national group that tracks beekeeping. So far, no one can say what is causing the bees to become disoriented and fail to return to their hives.

As with any great mystery, a number of theories have been posed, and many seem to researchers to be more science fiction than science. People have blamed genetically modified crops, cellular phone towers and high-voltage transmission lines for the disappearances. Or was it a secret plot by Russia or Osama bin Laden to bring down American agriculture? Or, as some blogs have asserted, the rapture of the bees, in which God recalled them to heaven? Researchers have heard it all.

The volume of theories "is totally mind-boggling," said Diana Cox-Foster, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University. With Jeffrey S. Pettis, an entomologist from the United States Department of Agriculture, Dr. Cox-Foster is leading a team of researchers who are trying to find answers to explain "colony collapse disorder," the name given for the disappearing bee syndrome.

"Clearly there is an urgency to solve this," Dr. Cox-Foster said. "We are trying to move as quickly as we can."

Dr. Cox-Foster and fellow scientists who are here at a two-day meeting to discuss early findings and future plans with government officials have been focusing on the most likely suspects: a virus, a fungus or a pesticide.

About 60 researchers from North America sifted the possibilities at the meeting today. Some expressed concern about the speed at which adult bees are disappearing from their hives; some colonies have collapsed in as little as two days. Others noted that countries in Europe, as well as Guatemala and parts of Brazil, are also struggling for answers.

"There are losses around the world that may or not be linked," Dr. Pettis said.
The investigation is now entering a critical phase. The researchers have collected samples in several states and have begun doing bee autopsies and genetic analysis.

So far, known enemies of the bee world, like the varroa mite, on their own at least, do not appear to be responsible for the unusually high losses.

Genetic testing at Columbia University has revealed the presence of multiple microorganisms in bees from hives or colonies that are in decline, suggesting that something is weakening their immune system. The researchers have found some fungi in the affected bees that are found in humans whose immune systems have been suppressed by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or cancer.

"That is extremely unusual," Dr. Cox-Foster said.
Meanwhile, samples were sent to an Agriculture Department laboratory in North Carolina this month to screen for 117 chemicals. Particular suspicion falls on a pesticide that France banned out of concern that it may have been decimating bee colonies. Concern has also mounted among public officials.

"There are so many of our crops that require pollinators," said Representative Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat whose district includes that state's central agricultural valley, and who presided last month at a Congressional hearing on the bee issue. "We need an urgent call to arms to try to ascertain what is really going on here with the bees, and bring as much science as we possibly can to bear on the problem."

So far, colony collapse disorder has been found in 27 states, according to Bee Alert Technology Inc., a company monitoring the problem. A recent survey of 13 states by the Apiary Inspectors of America showed that 26 percent of beekeepers had lost half of their bee colonies between September and March.

Honeybees are arguably the insects that are most important to the human food chain. They are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts. The number of bee colonies has been declining since the 1940s, even as the crops that rely on them, such as California almonds, have grown. In October, at about the time that beekeepers were experiencing huge bee losses, a study by the National Academy of Sciences questioned whether American agriculture was relying too heavily on one type of pollinator, the honeybee.

Bee colonies have been under stress in recent years as more beekeepers have resorted to crisscrossing the country with 18-wheel trucks full of bees in search of pollination work. These bees may suffer from a diet that includes artificial supplements, concoctions akin to energy drinks and power bars. In several states, suburban sprawl has limited the bees' natural forage areas.

So far, the researchers have discounted the possibility that poor diet alone could be responsible for the widespread losses. They have also set aside for now the possibility that the cause could be bees feeding from a commonly used genetically modified crop, Bt corn, because the symptoms typically associated with toxins, such as blood poisoning, are not showing up in the affected bees. But researchers emphasized today that feeding supplements produced from genetically modified crops, such as high-fructose corn syrup, need to be studied.

The scientists say that definitive answers for the colony collapses could be months away. But recent advances in biology and genetic sequencing are speeding the search.

Computers can decipher information from DNA and match pieces of genetic code with particular organisms. Luckily, a project to sequence some 11,000 genes of the honeybee was completed late last year at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, giving scientists a huge head start on identifying any unknown pathogens in the bee tissue.

"Otherwise, we would be looking for the needle in the haystack," Dr. Cox-Foster said.

Large bee losses are not unheard of. They have been reported at several points in the past century. But researchers think they are dealing with something new -- or at least with something previously unidentified.

"There could be a number of factors that are weakening the bees or speeding up things that shorten their lives," said Dr. W. Steve Sheppard, a professor of entomology at Washington State University. "The answer may already be with us."

Scientists first learned of the bee disappearances in November, when David Hackenberg, a Pennsylvania beekeeper, told Dr. Cox-Foster that more than 50 percent of his bee colonies had collapsed in Florida, where he had taken them for the winter.

Dr. Cox-Foster, a 20-year veteran of studying bees, soon teamed with Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the Pennsylvania apiary inspector, to look into the losses.

In December, she approached W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at Columbia University, about doing genetic sequencing of tissue from bees in the colonies that experienced losses. The laboratory uses a recently developed technique for reading and amplifying short sequences of DNA that has revolutionized the science. Dr. Lipkin, who typically works on human diseases, agreed to do the analysis, despite not knowing who would ultimately pay for it. His laboratory is known for its work in finding the West Nile disease in the United States.

Dr. Cox-Foster ultimately sent samples of bee tissue to researchers at Columbia, to the Agriculture Department laboratory in Maryland, and to Gene Robinson, an entomologist at the University of Illinois. Fortuitously, she had frozen bee samples from healthy colonies dating to 2004 to use for comparison.

After receiving the first bee samples from Dr. Cox-Foster on March 6, Dr. Lipkin's team amplified the genetic material and started sequencing to separate virus, fungus and parasite DNA from bee DNA.

"This is like 'C.S.I.' for agriculture," Dr. Lipkin said. "It is painstaking, gumshoe detective work."

Dr. Lipkin sent his first set of results to Dr. Cox-Foster, showing that several unknown microorganisms were present in the bees from collapsing colonies. Meanwhile, Mr. vanEngelsdorp and researchers at the Agriculture Department lab here began an autopsy of bees from collapsing colonies in California, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania to search for any known bee pathogens.

At the University of Illinois, using knowledge gained from the sequencing of the bee genome, Dr. Robinson's team will try to find which genes in the collapsing colonies are particularly active, perhaps indicating stress from exposure to a toxin or pathogen.

The national research team also quietly began a parallel study in January, financed in part by the National Honey Board, to further determine if something pathogenic could be causing colonies to collapse.

Mr. Hackenberg, the beekeeper, agreed to take his empty bee boxes and other equipment to Food Technology Service, a company in Mulberry, Fla., that uses gamma rays to kill bacteria on medical equipment and some fruits. In early results, the irradiated bee boxes seem to have shown a return to health for colonies repopulated with Australian bees.

"This supports the idea that there is a pathogen there," Dr. Cox-Foster said. "It would be hard to explain the irradiation getting rid of a chemical."

Still, some environmental substances remain suspicious.

Chris Mullin, a Pennsylvania State University professor and insect toxicologist, recently sent a set of samples to a federal laboratory in Raleigh, N.C., that will screen for 117 chemicals. Of greatest interest are the "systemic" chemicals that are able to pass through a plant's circulatory system and move to the new leaves or the flowers, where they would come in contact with bees.

One such group of compounds is called neonicotinoids, commonly used pesticides that are used to treat corn and other seeds against pests. One of the neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, is commonly used in Europe and the United States to treat seeds, to protect residential foundations against termites and to help keep golf courses and home lawns green.

In the late 1990s, French beekeepers reported large losses of their bees and complained about the use of imidacloprid, sold under the brand name Gaucho. The chemical, while not killing the bees outright, was causing them to be disoriented and stay away from their hives, leading them to die of exposure to the cold, French researchers later found. The beekeepers labeled the syndrome "mad bee disease."

The French government banned the pesticide in 1999 for use on sunflowers, and later for corn, despite protests by the German chemical giant Bayer, which has said its internal research showed the pesticide was not toxic to bees. Subsequent studies by independent French researchers have disagreed with Bayer. Alison Chalmers, an eco-toxicologist for Bayer CropScience, said at the meeting today that bee colonies had not recovered in France as beekeepers had expected. "These chemicals are not being used anymore," she said of imidacloprid, "so they certainly were not the only cause."

Among the pesticides being tested in the American bee investigation, the neonicotinoids group "is the number-one suspect," Dr. Mullin said. He hoped results of the toxicology screening will be ready within a month.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 9:19PM
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thisbud4u(San Diego)

roselee, you beat me to it. I was about to post that article. So, what does it teach us?
1) irradiating the bee equipment seems to help the colonies recover, suggesting (very strongly) that the culprit is a pathogen--fungus, virus, bacteria or mycoplasma--or a combination of them.
2) French research has shown that Imidicloprid does have some negative effect on the bees which is similar to what we're seeing with CCD. BTW, this pesticide is being pushed hard on grape growers to control the glassy-winged sharpshooter here in California.
3) CCD is found in places like Guatemala where there are very few if any GMO crops being grown, so genetically-modified crops are NOT the cause.
4) CCD is found in Brazil, where killer bees are found, so even AHBs are not immune.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 2:36AM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

Mind you, not all abscondings are CCD necessarily. Penn State put an hypothesis together that it is a fungus, an opportunistic fungus, that seems to go toxic when bees are previously stressed, such as moved around the country, or subject to repeated splits.

The fungus story on this week really got any press.

Nothing determined yet.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 6:31PM
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thisbud4u(San Diego)

ccrb1 and all, There was a video on AOL news today about this fungus. The lady reporter called it a "single-celled parasite, a fungus." Well, there are single-celled fungi, so that's a possibility. This just re-emphasizes what I've been saying all along--keep your equipment clean, and do NOT share equipment, because you'll spread the disease. Of course, as much as possible, minimize the stress on your bees. Finally, for those of us who are hobbyists rather than professionals, there is good evidence that wild hives are healthier than hives whose queens were artifically inseminated (both my hives came from colonies I captured from the wild). When I get a chance, I'm going to start a new thread on this subject. Rudolf Steiner wrote a book in the 1920s in which he predicted the demise of honeybee populations due to the (then) new practice of artifical insemination, which he felt was a very bad idea. If you know anything about Steiner's philosophies, you'll know that his reasons sound completely wacko to most people, but the fact remains that he was right in his prediction.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 12:41AM
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Wikipedia has a lot of very good information on Colony Collapse Disorder, at least what is suspected and basic info about bees and their many various diseases and stressors.

Even though GMO corn and cotton crops don't rely on bees for pollination, the bees will often feed on their pollen.

And the oft quoted bit supposedly uttered by Einstein about bees doesn't seem to be verifiable by a search of his writings or public speaches.

There have been hearings about CCD in congress recently, with some interseting and disturbing testimony. I was wondering if the reason most people haven't heard about this yet, and it's not getting any TV coverage, is they're afraid the news may create fear and panic in certain sectors, negatively affecting the markets, and having a ripple effect. One of the experts before Congress said as much, and that the markets, and prices, will be affected in the near future anyway.

Scary stuff, especially after just having watched the film "Children Of Men"!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 7:21AM
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milleruszk(z6 NJ)

I am very dis-heartened to read about colony collapse disorder. To my amazement I began seeing honey bees visiting my garden last year after a long long absence. I had hoped that the problems plaguing honey bee colonies had subsided. Now this! I would be a bee keeper myself if I lived in a different area. I can only hope that the bees visiting my garden last year return again this year!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 8:07PM
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If I may, allow me to be a jerk.

Colony Collapse Disorder isn't happening.

Other than anecdote and sources with a profit or political agenda who is claiming it is? Who has actually tracked bee populations over time and can say it is up or down over 10 years ago?

It isn't hard to find bee keepers whose colony mysteriously died, it has been going on since people kept bees.

Where is the actual evidence that honey bee populations have dwindled? The other thing is the Einstein quote is bogus. Even if it wasn't, Einstein wasn't a beekeeper nor was he famous for his naturalist mind. The fact that the quote is a bogus appeal to a (false) authority ought to raise some red flags in people's critical thinking portion of their brain.

Honey bees aren't even native to the US so the idea their extinction would result in worldwide starvation is just silly.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 2:58AM
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bandit_tx(z7-8 TX)

Whos tracks honey bee colonies? The USDA for one, and most states since it is agricultural big business.
And now the US congress is doing so.
How about the National Honey Board
MAAREC is a regional group focused on addressing the pest management crisis facing the beekeeping industry in the Mid-Atlantic Region.
State of South Dakota
Cornell University
Texas A&M University and the State of Texas

The economic impact of bees on agriculture is indisputable. You seem to forget that many of the crops we now depend on are not native either.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 11:29AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

>>Honey bees aren't even native to the USSo are we!


    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 8:29PM
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jennie(8 WA)

I don't know if they're honeybees, but there are lots of fuzzy bees all over our native blackberries here. I noticed because of all the publicity about CCD.

Not a beekeeper, but I do like to eat!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 8:16PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

"If I may, allow me to be a jerk. Colony Collapse Disorder isn't happening."

You're actually not alone in this thinking. Some researchers aren't at all convinced that CCD isn't taking on a life all its own and doesn't necessarily exist as a new problem.

With the past week, my state, Indiana, turned red on the map as did Illinois. Holy Cow, it's May already and 80° outside today.

I emailed the person who does the map and he sent back this cryptic reply:

--- We get pressure from all sides - try to do our best -- this is a self-reporting survey. Queen producing, package producing, and states renting lots of bee for pollination lobby us for de-listing. Most extreme case - state inspector and state association lobbied to be de-listed, knowing full well that we had sampled CCD colonies and that one of their own had just called the CCD Working group to ask for help. Conversely, the American Beekeeping Federation would like us to list all state so that all would qualify if and when Congress provides beekeeper disaster relief.---

---We emphasize that the map is comprised of voluntary surveys, that listing a state does not mean that it currently has CCD nor the degree to which CCD has been reported.---

To which I can add... nothing...


    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 9:51PM
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All hype and no proof. Right up there with Global Warming. The bees are definitely out there, maybe not the numbers of last year but they go thru cycles just like the rest of nature. Imagine that. I can guarantee you that produce is not going to suffer. The doomsdayers need to get a life.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 3:08PM
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thisbud4u(San Diego)

Geez, it sounds like the revisionist Republicans have gotten ahold of this forum. Yes, CCD is a major problem, and the whole idea behind finding a cure is to prevent a major collapse of the food chain. Professional beekeepers I've spoken to locally have seen major declines in their bees. One of them, just up the road, has lost 100 hives. That's got to take a bite out of your bottom line. If you talk to old time beekeepers, they'll tell you that they've never lost 100 hives in one season for no apparent reason.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 6:01PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

It's not revisionists. There are many researchers who are not sure that CCD exists as a specific and unique disorder. Although the hive losses are significant, they're hardly unprecedented.

Tracheal mite losses were as bad or worse.

Personally, I do think CCD is something specific but perhaps not new. Hopefully we will know soon.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 1:29AM
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I was about to chlorinate my pool today when I saw a few bees taking water to spray on their hive nearby to cool it off. It was then I realized that chlorinated pools could be a possible cause of colony collapse disorder. I put the chlorine back in the storage room instead of pouring some into the pool, and decided that I'm only going to chlorinate my pool very lightly, and only at night so the chlorine has a lot of time to dissipate before it gets hot out and the bees show up to get water.

A little chlorinated pool water might not do much harm to a hive, but if the bees repeatedly spray the hive with varying concentrations of chlorinated water, over time the hive will likely collapse and nobody would know what happened. Somebody ought to look into this - are hives collapsing in warmer zones faster than cooler zones?

Perhaps the effects of chlorine happen gradually over time, and weaken the colonies a little bit more each generation as the effects of chlorine accumulate. Cooler zones would not provide immunity to CCD because of the migratory (swarming) behavior of bees. Eventually colonies in the cooler zones would collapse, but it would start several generations later than in the warmer zones. If chlorinated pool water is indeed the root cause of CCD, it would stand to reason that bees in the hottest parts of the country - where more people have pools - would be hit the hardest and fastest with CCD.

My family had a few hundred hives in Chino Hills, CA while I was growing up, I was raised with bees, and I love them. I hope we can stop CCD in time. It sure would be nice if it was something as simple as pool chlorine.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 10:36AM
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Do I see signs of Hive Collapse? Yes, every spring when I open my hives and half of them contain no live bees. Very frustrating.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2015 at 11:47PM
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