Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

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Main Question or Discussion Point

I have read several articles about this lately. The bees apparently fly away and never come back. Is this something new or just a periodic natural occurrence? I really couldn't find anything on Google that gave an adequate answer.

I know there was a mite infestation that killed millions of bees a few years ago, but that was defined and positively diagnosed.
 

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  • #3
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This article talks a bit about it, they don't have any answers yet.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article1403349.ece
Wow this could be really bad. I find it odd that the bees leave the colonies and then don't come back. Bees have a highly evolved sense of direction, they could probably perform as well as a GPS system in their own element.

This is not my area of expertise, but I spent a lot of time working with bees as a youth. I was mostly pulling the honey supers out of the hives. I guess that is why the articles caught my eye.

The fact that the bees do not come back to the colony, which is about the only thing that we do know, would indicate to me a possibility that whatever this disorder is affects the bees built in guidance system. It would also appear that the mechanism of the disorder acts quickly.
 
  • #4
chemisttree
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See here too...

http://www.ento.psu.edu/MAAREC/pressReleases/FallDwindleUpdate0107.pdf

From the above report (page 9-10)... Imidacloprid (a chloronicotinide) in sublethal doses can cause problems with the area of the nervous system that makes new memories in honeybees. This pesticide is known to be highly toxic to honeybees but sub lethal doses from seed coating can cause problems as well.

It seems that just about everything used on agricultural crops can affect honeybees.

http://www.honeycouncil.ca/users/folder.asp?FolderID=4967 [Broken]

I wonder if anyone is looking into what sublethal doses of all this stuff does to the honeybee memory system?
 
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  • #5
turbo
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When genetically-engineered crops are developed, are they tested to make certain that bees can digest the pollen, and that substances in the pollen will not re-activate in the bees guts and poison them or cause neurological damage? These articles seem to indicate that non-target insects can be injured by plants that are engineered to be resistant to insect damage.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_637.cfm
http://www.foe.org/safefood/geplants.html

Effects on non-target organisms:

The toxin gene found naturally in Bt bacteria produces an inactive "protoxin" that is activated by the gastric juices of certain insects; the activated toxin then destroys their digestive tracts and kills the insects. In contrast, genetically engineered plants produce an active toxin that does not require activation.
If the toxin inhibits neural function, it does not have to kill the bees directly to destroy the hive. Bees leaving the hive may not be able to accurately store their flight path in memory, and simply not be able to return to the hive. This would explain why the bees simply disappeared without a large apparent kill-off and without obvious swarming activity.
 
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  • #6
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It is going to be an interesting spring. In northern states bee colonies are not even active at this time of year.

I found an old Wiki link to a 1998 French study about bees and a particular pesticide that was used on sunflowers. In this case only the sunflower seeds were pretreated with Imidacloprid. Dam it looks like anything is possible.

In 1998, a French official study was conducted, whose goal was to determine whether Imidacloprid was responsible for the population decrease, as well as the reduction in honey production during the flowering season of sunflowers.

Ecotoxicology studies had to define the living being in danger (the bees), to define the chemical concerned (imidacloprid), to evaluate the quantity necessary to kill the living being with the chemical, and to define the concentrations at which there is no detrimental effects on the living being.

In the case of the accusation carried out against imidacloprid, the issue is not the direct death of the bees, but behavioral changes (disorientation, feeding issues, and communication disturbance). Initial studies were aimed at determining the minimal amount for which bees showed these behavioral changes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imidacloprid_effects_on_bee_population

Now I am curious to see if I can find any new pesticides that hit the market last year. Pennsylvania was hit particulary hard by the Colony collapse.
 
  • #7
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Imidacloprid, the pesticide mentioned above has been banned in France due to a suspected relation to Bee colony collapse disorder. The manufacturer of the chemical, Bayer, claimed that they found no sufficient evidence to warrant a ban. The problem was, however, resolved when the pesticide was banned.
http://www.bbka.org.uk/articles/imidacloprid.php [Broken]

Imidacloprid is used widely in the U.S. on a wide range of crops. Due to the systemic nature of the chemical's action it is frequently applied directly to the row of soil where the crops are to be planted.

During recent years some insects have developed a resistance to the pesticide.
http://www.msstate.edu/entomology/v8n2/art06.html [Broken]

I have not yet found a link, but feel that it is a logical conclusion that the concentration of Imidacloprid in the soil would be increased to counter the resistance.
 
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  • #8
Moonbear
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I haven't had time to read through all the articles posted yet, but ONE reason I've heard for bees leaving a colony is when a new queen is hatched, if she moves location, the rest of the colony might follow (I think I've heard that more often, a colony will split when this happens...maybe a reaction to overpopulation?). But, that doesn't mean it accounts for all cases, just one. I don't know how common that would be anyway if the colony is thriving where it is.
 
  • #9
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I haven't had time to read through all the articles posted yet, but ONE reason I've heard for bees leaving a colony is when a new queen is hatched, if she moves location, the rest of the colony might follow (I think I've heard that more often, a colony will split when this happens...maybe a reaction to overpopulation?). But, that doesn't mean it accounts for all cases, just one. I don't know how common that would be anyway if the colony is thriving where it is.
MB, professional bee keepers handle the colony split situation on a regular basis. Just keeping empty hives around for them to move into is usually all that is needed. Although sometimes they do leave and end up some distance away, usually to be found as a clump of bees on a tree limb.

I guess I am just playing amateur bee detective here.:cool: But I sure do enjoy looking into a good mystery. And as I mentioned above, I worked with bees when I was a teenager.
 
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  • #10
turbo
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MB, professional bee keepers handle the colony split situation on a regular basis. Just keeping empty hives around for them to move into is usually all that is needed. Although sometimes they do leave and end up some distance away, usually to be found as a clump of bees on a tree limb.

I guess I am just playing amateur bee detective here.:cool: But I sure do enjoy looking into a good mystery. And as I mentioned above, I worked with bees when I was a teenager.
Two factors make me lean toward contaminants/toxicity. First off there was no mention of swarming. Beekeepers are quite aware of swarming behavior and will take measures to ensure that the splits are productive. Next, there was apparent tissue damage (as evidenced by discolored organs) in effected bees. Low-level neurotoxicity could easily allow the bees to appear to function normally (forage, etc), but if it prevented them from imprinting the path from the hive to food, they would be unable to return, thus "wasting" the hive population without swarming. Bees rely on collective behavior to keep themselves warm, fed, and protected. Once separated from the colony, it may not possible for them to survive for long.
 
  • #11
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The phenomenon is recent, dating back to autumn, when beekeepers along the east coast of the US started to notice the die-offs. It was given the name of fall dwindle disease, but now it has been renamed to reflect better its dramatic nature, and is known as colony collapse disorder.
It is recent only to the USA. It had been seen in France in the late 90's and in Canada in 2002. The problem in France ended when the pesticide, Imidacloprid, was banned.

It is swift in its effect. Over the course of a week the majority of the bees in an affected colony will flee the hive and disappear, going off to die elsewhere. The few remaining insects are then found to be enormously diseased - they have a "tremendous pathogen load", the scientists say. But why? No one yet knows.
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/features/article2316697.ece [Broken]

Many insects have become resistant to Imidacloprid since it was introduced to this country 11 years ago. I would suggest that either the concentration of Imidacloprid has been increased or some new systemic product has replaced it. There is also the possibility that there is now a combination of insecticides being used that is new to agriculture. Systemic pesticides are often sprayed into the soil in the row where the seeds are planted. Some times the seeds, or in the case of potatoes, the sections of potato with sprouts, are pretreated with the chemical. When the soil itself is treated there is also the possibility that a toxic build up occurs over time.

I tend to be practical more than scientific when there is no scientific data available. I start with what I do know and go from there. What I have found about the pesticide question is:

The manufacturer of the pesticide usually conducts the testing.

In the case of the accusation carried out against imidacloprid, the issue is not the direct death of the bees, but behavioral changes (disorientation, feeding issues, and communication disturbance.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imidacl...bee_population [Broken]

This seems to fit the pattern of what is happening.
 
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  • #12
Q_Goest
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The one reference provided by chemisttree is interesting. It says:
(Bottom of page 3) All were migratory beekeepers. All had moved their colonies at least 2 times in the 2006 season, with some colonies being moved as many as five times over the 2006 season.
(Bottom of page 4) All producers experienced some form of extraordinary "Stress" at least 2 months prior to the first incidence of "die off" associated with "Fall dwindle disease". The nature of this stress was variable but included nutritional stress (apiary overcrowding, pollination of crops with little nutritional value), dramatic pollen and nectar dearth, or varroa mite pressure. Due to drought in some areas, the bees may have had limited water resources or contaminated water supplies.
Ref: http://www.ento.psu.edu/MAAREC/pressReleases/FallDwindleUpdate0107.pdf
That report is dated Dec. 15, '06


So although it sounds pretty serious, it doesn't sound quite as serious as the reference Evo sited which says:
He said: “It’s the worst thing I’ve seen in 40 years. It worries me a lot, because honeybees are like the canary in the coalmine — if something’s bothering them, it’s a warning to us humans too.”
Ref: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article1403349.ece
That report is dated Feb. 19, '07

I wonder if the second report has collected additional information or if it's just sensationalized?
 
  • #13
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(Bottom of page 3) All were migratory beekeepers. All had moved their colonies at least 2 times in the 2006 season, with some colonies being moved as many as five times over the 2006 season.
There is nothing new about this. Beekeepers have been moving crop pollination hives for decades. Most probably those same migratory beekeepers had moved hives the same number of times in 02 03,04.05. The normal life span of a worker bee is only 6 weeks from egg to death in the summer months. They of course live longer in the winter.

In adition this is only one report from one area, the problem is now in 24 states. This spring is going to be interesting and hopefully not a Silent Spring for honeybees.
 
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  • #14
Q_Goest
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Is there any indication that this a significant phenomenon happening to bee hives that are not 'migratory'? Is it increasing in non-migratory bee hives?
 
  • #15
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Is there any indication that this a significant phenomenon happening to bee hives that are not 'migratory'? Is it increasing in non-migratory bee hives?
At this point it appears that no one seems to know about that except for this tid bit:

Anecdotal second hand reporting suggests
i. that non-migratory operations are experiencing this phenomena
only in split colonies and not parent colonies
http://www.ento.psu.edu/MAAREC/pressReleases/FallDwindleUpdate0107.pdf

Migratory bees would definitely be exposed to more stress, but then they always have. They would probably also be exposed to more of anything toxic on crops because they travel from south to north following the flowering season of the various crops.

To make matters worse I have read that bee keepers have moved the remaining food supply left in a collapsed colony to new colonies.
 
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  • #16
chemisttree
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The headline in today's San Antonio paper reads, "Why Have the Bees Disappeared?"

Texas is having problems as well. A beekeeper south of SA in Moore has lost 1200 hives. He reports that the bees seem to get lost and he finds the hives either empty or with the queen and a handful of inmmature junior workers who are rife with disease. He noticed the loss last fall and by Christmas half of his 5,500 hives were either completly empty or barely hanging on. He ships his bees all the way to California to pollinate the almond trees every February.

The 1,200 hive loss translates into about $500,000 of business.

I didn't realize that beekeeping was that lucrative. His "ranch" is only 26 acres....

Edit: CBS News posted this 5 hours ago:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/04/national/main2646409.shtml [Broken]

Last week the House Committee on Agriculture held meetings on the problem.
In addition to the Imacloprid contamination, pollination of genetically-engineered crops developed to express the BT toxin are being eyed as a potentiator for parasitic attack.
 
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  • #17
Astronuc
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_Collapse_Disorder


Anecdotally, we see fewer bees during spring and summer on our flowers. We see far fewer honeybees, but more bumblebees. The decrease in honey bees has been a general trend for about a decade. I think there were a couple of years where we didn't see any.

http://podcasts.psu.edu/node/265 [Broken]

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Congressman Dennis Cardoza, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture and

Organic Agriculture, held a hearing to investigate colony collapse disorder in honey bee colonies across the United States.

http://www.minnesotafarmguide.com/articles/2007/03/31/ag_news/updates/update02.txt [Broken]
Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is characterized by the sudden die-off of honey bee colonies. The cause of CCD has not been

determined, and the Subcommittee heard about the situation and its impact on agriculture from scientists and bee keepers, as well as

a farmer who relies on bees to pollinate his crops.

"I am deeply committed to raising awareness of CCD and its impact on American agriculture," said Subcommittee Chairman Cardoza.
Across the U.S., Keepers Say Their Bees Are AWOL
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7806292
Talk of the Nation, March 9, 2007 · Recently in more than 20 states, beekeepers are opening their hives to find the bees gone. While bee populations in the U.S. have been suffering in recent years from a variety of threats, this sudden disappearance of bees from hives across the country has caught many beekeepers off guard, with no clear explanations.
 
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  • #18
wolram
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Bee population in decline

http://albionmonitor.net/9607a/beedecline.html

"A pollination crisis is flaring," write authors Stephen Buchman and Gary Nabhan. "It threatens rare, endangered plants as well as the common ones that keep people clothed and fed... At risk is every plant crop that depends on pollination for reproduction: one in three mouthfuls of the food people eat."

The decline of a single species, even one as important as the honey bee, would not usually have such far- reaching effects, but with the crisis in biodiversity, the loss of even one keystone species can bring down several others.

In the past many different animals pollinated plants, including mosquitos, butterflies, flying foxes, bats, and more than 40,000 native species of bees. As more and more development projects disrupted native habitats, specialized pollinators were driven to extinction. The honey bee filled in for a time, pollinating a wide range of plant species, but now even the honey bee is at risk. The combination of killer bees and tracheal mites is ravaging feral honey bee populations, destroying up to 85 percent of hives in some parts of the country.

May be more worrying and imediate than global warming.
 
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  • #19
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In my view, the decline of the bee is the most alarming environmental problem faced by humans.
 
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  • #21
Ivan Seeking
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Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?

Scientists claim radiation from handsets are to blame for mysterious 'colony collapse' of bees

By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross
Published: 15 April 2007

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.[continued]
http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/wildlife/article2449968.ece [Broken]
 
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  • #22
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What was it the last few times? Mites, bee viruses, and fungi. IT'S NOT CELL PHONES, PESTICIDES, OR GM CROPS. Yes, the (EM) radiation from powerlines and microwave ovens caused cancer, and I'm sure cell phones caused explosions at gasoline stations.

And it pisses when I see somebody cite Friends of the Earth, Save the Whales, or Greenpeace.

Yeah, I'm not feeling well.
 
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  • #23
chemisttree
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Have a cup of coffee...

We aren't quoting Friends of the Earth or Save the Whales or Greenpeace. We're quoting reliable sources (Florida Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Nature, etc...)
 
  • #24
Most animals depend somewhat on the Earths magnetic field, and it has been slowly declining in strength for quite a while, so that may be the problem. Quite possibly the bees are the most sensitive, and the first to be affected.
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  • #25
Ivan Seeking
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Bee researchers say fungus may play role in disappearances
By JIA-RUI CHONG and THOMAS H. MAUGH II The Los Angeles Times

A fungus that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is now wiping out bees across the U.S., University of California, San Francisco researchers said Wednesday...

But the results are “highly preliminary” and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in California’s Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. “We don’t want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved.”

Others said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in hives from around the country. They also have found two other fungi and six viruses in dead bees.[continued]
http://columbiamissourian.com/news/story.php?ID=25414 [Broken]
 
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