Bee Colony Collapse Disorder
Bees, both wild and domestic ones have been in the news several times for a very terrifying reason. This prompted the large beekeepers to start inspecting their colonies. Recently it became apparent that bees are not doing very well. We’re experiencing colony die-offs and the problem may become even bigger. This represents a continuation of the terrifying phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). If bees are in an infected hive, they leave and never return. That means that the colony dwindles to a point that it cannot sustain itself and thus dies. In fact, if that happens to you, only a few dead bees are found in and around the hive. So CCD is truly a perplexing phenomenon. The number of dead colonies has begun reaching epidemic proportions and beekeepers and researchers are scrambling to find the cause. You should note that bees are directly or indirectly responsible for over a third of the food we eat. The Colony Collapse Disorder Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD is a phenomenon that has been affecting both wild and domesticated honey bees in recent years. There are dwindling bee colonies since as the bees leave the infected hive they never return, so the rest of the colony cannot sustain itself and they just die off. According to scientific studies of the disorder, the probable causes of the dying colonies are the spread of mite, viral and parasite infestations such as Varroa destructor, Israel acute paralysis virus and parasitic infection by the fungus Nosema apis. Also, it has been suggested that other causes could be new diseases, pesticide poisoning due to the exposure to the pesticide used to control pests in crops out in the fields or pesticides used to control in-hive insects and even mite control. Climate change is also another suggested probable cause. Bees are in one way or another responsible for over a third of the food in the world. Colony Collapse Disorder leads to significant economic losses because many agricultural crops around the world are pollinated by honey bees, specifically the western honey bees. The dwindling bee colonies have caused a shortage of bees in the United States and this has increased the cost to farmers renting them for pollination services by up to 20 per cent. Over a period of six years up to 2013, it is said that more than 10 million colonies were lost, mainly to CCD. This was almost twice the normal rate of loss. While several causes for CCD have been suggested, not even a single proposal has gained widespread acceptance among the scientific community. The Colony Collapse Disorder could be a conspiracy to try to limit the number of pollinating bees, the western honey bee in particular. This could be used as a food supply control and thus the population. It is important to understand that bees do not hibernate and to maintain themselves they have to eat. During winter, the cluster in the hive moves slowly in the hive, consuming stored honey. As the individual bees get their fill they move to the outside of the cluster in a continually rotating manner, an activity that creates heat and moisture. The suggested probable causes have plagued honeybees for a long time, but the question of what has really changed that has increased the bee death? This question shows that there is a lot of confusion on this topic. Could it be there is a body that is responsible for disease mongering that lead to bee death? A study concluded that CCD may not be caused by any one thing but rather a combination of all adverse factors. However, pesticides are pointed out directly as one cause of the leading probable causes. The combination of chemicals in the pesticides is worrisome. But really we can’t help but wonder why pesticides are being allowed to continue making pesticides that are harmful to the honeybees. These companies and the entire world are aware that bees are very important in the production of crops through pollination, but still, we have pesticides that continue to finish bees off.
Neonicotinoid and pyrethroid are two pesticides forbidden by USDA organic standards. These pesticides have been tagged as potentially harmful to bee colony health and a possible contributing factor in Colony Collapse Disorder. We have always seen organic and anti-GMO groups blame pesticides used on GMO crops as a cause for CCD. However, this does not consider the fact the organic farms use pesticides too, particularly those known to have adverse effects on bees. Some insecticides including pyrethrins, copper sulfate and spinosad are approved for and used in organic farms, and therefore, we would not be wrong to say that organic farms may also be contributing to CCD. Pyrethrum insecticide approved for use in the organic farms also has highly adverse effects on bees. However, there is currently no clear association between any of them and CCD, but all have adverse effects on bees.
EU Ban Neonicotinoids
In April 2013, the European Union (EU) implemented a two-year ban on neonicotinoid pesticides which are thought to be one of the leading factors in CCD. However, the ban did not prevent CCD from affecting northern Europe and the UK a year later. This causes more confusion where we are left wondering what the cause could be. If the ban of neonicotinoid pesticides by the EU did not prevent CCD from hitting northern Europe and the UK, then what caused CCD in those areas? More and more questions keep coming up we still can’t get answers for them.
Initiatives to ban neonicotinoids in the US
In March of 2013, professional beekeepers and environmentalists together filed a lawsuit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allowing the continuation of the use of neonicotinoids in the United States. The lawsuit came after a dramatic die-off of bees in the United States, where some beekeeper lost 50 per cent of their hives. The EPA dramatically responded to the lawsuit by issuing a report blaming the Varroa mite for the decline in bees and claimed that the role of neonicotinoids in the bee death has been overstated.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
The die that beekeepers feed to their hives during the offseason is another suspected cause of the honeybee death. We know that honey is what brings profits to the beekeepers. During winter and autumn, bees naturally feed off surplus honey that they have stored in the hive. However, since beekeepers need to make money, they traditionally took the surplus honey and fed the bees with regular sugar. But in recent years, they have turned to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to feed the bees because its price has fallen below that of sugar. Forcing bees to eat sugars other than their own honey may be a factor in their inability to survive certain pathogens and pesticides that they are more often than not exposed to. HFCS is known to break down into hydroxymethylfurfural if stored at high temperatures, which is very toxic to bees but not to humans. Therefore, if there are beekeepers who are not careful about the storage and handling of the HFCS, it could also contribute to the death of bees.
A 2007 article suggested that the Varroa destructor is the world’s most destructive bee killer, particularly because of the virus it carries such as deformed wing virus and acute bee paralysis virus. These two viruses are probable causes of CCD. The Varroa mites also tend to weaken the immune system of bees, especially before winter whereby they introduce viruses that lead to the death of the colony during the winter. Varroa mites also affect the ability of the queen to reproduce, which really affects the survival of the colony. It is for those reasons that the Varroa mites are considered a probable cause of CCD, but not all dwindling colonies have these mites.
Viral and fungal combination
Jerry Bromenshenk led a team of researchers at a University of Montana and Montana State published in a paper in 2010 stating that a new DNA virus, invertebrate iridescent virus type 6 (IIV-6), and the fungus Nosema ceranae were found in every dead colony the group studied. They actually found that neither the agent alone seemed deadly, but a combination of the virus and Nosema ceranae was 100 percent fatal. Information about the study was made public in The New York Times. However, the Professor of entomology at Penn State University, James Frazier, who was researching the sublethal impact of pesticides on bees, stated that Bromenshenk’s study had generated some important data, but Bromenshenk himself had a conflict of interest as a CEO of a company developing scanners to diagnose bee diseases.
There is a widespread belief by conspiracy theorists who believe that GMOs can spread the CDC and are a part of a corporate conspiracy for food supply control and thus the population.