Beekeepers as well as crop growers are very concerned about an unknown ailment that is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country. A colony can have between 20,000 to 60,000 bees depending on the time of year. Beekeepers have reported losses between 50 to nearly 100%. Not only does this have a significant effect on honey production, but The National Research Council says that crops are also at risk. In order to bear fruit, three-quarters of all flowering plants require pollinators for fertilization. If the trend in bee deaths increase, this could have a major ripple effect on the entire industry.
The behavior of the effected bee colonies is also strange. It is believed that many of the bees are flying away before they die, as the hives appear normal from the outside. Once inspected, there are very few adult bees caring for the young. Normally, a weak hive is attacked and taken over by other bees who are after the honey. This is not the case here. Most of the infected hives are left alone, but the mystery illness is spreading very quickly regardless.
An analysis of the dead bees only perplex researchers further. Weakened immune systems, strange fungi and bacteria are being found but no answers for why. Some are pointing to the use of pesticides. But pesticides are nothing new, and it doesn’t explain the alarming rate of the bee deaths. “Colony Collapse Disorder” is the current name for the illness.
Colony Collapse Disorder or “CCD” has been documented as far back as 1896. But it was not until the the last few years that something very large scale and devastating has emerged. One thing seems certain, and that is CCD is a contagious disease among the bees. It seems to act as HIV does in humans, in other words a form of immunosupression. This explains why there is no direct cause to what is killing the bees, but all of them seem to have weakened immune systems which leads to opportunistic infections.
Eleven states from Georgia to California, including parts of Canada have seen bee colonies being wiped out by CCD. Some states have seen their bee populations drop by 75%. Considering honeybees pollinate almonds, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, apples, cherries, strawberries, cucumbers and other popular fruits and vegetables, and estimated $15 billion worth of crops, CCD is being taken very seriously. Experts are scrambling to find ways of curbing this fast moving ‘bee epidemic’, but without much knowledge of what they are dealing with, it is difficult to know what steps should be taken for prevention.