Colony Collapse Disorder – Honey Bees Are Disappearing

| May 17, 2011 | 0 Comments
Colony Collapse Disorder

Photo credit {link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinti1/5519458297/}Pinti1{/link}

Einstein is reputed to have said, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left“.

Whether he was right or not we don’t know, but the bees have started disappearing, and scientists are rightly worried.

Bees are disappearing by the millions and without a trace.  Pennsylvania beekeeper Dave Hackenberg was the first to report the disappearances in October, 2006.  Returning to pickup 400 colonies he’d delivered to pollinate a farm, he noticed the massive disappearances.

“There were no dead bees, no bees on the ground, just empty boxes.  In almost 50 years as a beekeeper, I’ve never seen anything like it.(National Geographic)

Since then beekeepers across the United States announced massive losses in their bee populations year after year – losses of 25%, 30% and more.  Similar phenomena are being reported around the world, including Belgium, France, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Taiwan.  Northern Ireland reported declines of  greater than 50%.

What’s Causing It

The simple answer is no one knows.

As you would expect, scientists have been working intensely to determine the cause of these disappearances – a phenomenon they’re referring to as ‘Colony Collapse Disorder‘ (CCD).  The best answer to date, based on a study completed in 2010, is a deadly combination of a fungus and a virus – much more deadly than either would be alone.

The study found all colonies that had suffered CCD had pathogens known as  ‘Invertebrate Iridescent Viruses’ [IIV] present, although these were also found in strong colonies.  Strong correlation was then found between the combination of Nosema (a kind of single celled fungus) and IIV in collapsed colonies, but finding Nosema in isolation was not sufficient to predict collapse.

The Impact

If losses continue unabated, we could be in serious trouble.

Honey bees are one of the primary pollinators of food crops.  In the United States for example, around 30% of the food consumed is produced as a result of honey bee pollination.  And other pollinators are not necessarily ready to step in and fill the gap – there is data suggesting other pollinating insect species are also on the decline.

If honey bee losses aren’t reversed soon, food could become a lot more costly in the near future.  Australia, which has no CCD, has been exporting bees furiously to various parts of the world, but this pushes up costs significantly.  Furthermore, if Australia were to develop CCD also things could become even worse.

What Now?

It would seem that with climate change, CCD, peak oil and the host of other challenges to our global food production and transport, that now has never been a better time to have a well loved backyard vegetable garden.  Who’s with me?

 

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Category: Environment

About the Author ()

Simon Ussher is the founder of SimpleSunflower.com, a co-founder of the Simplicity Institute, and a practicing medical specialist. He's passionate about the holistic benefits of simple living, and making simple living an easy and viable lifestyle option.

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