It’s impossible to around gardeners or farmers and not have heard of ‘Bee Colony Collapse Disorder’. Bee Colony Collapse Disorder occurs when the worker bees leave the hive and vanish leaving the queen and larvae to starve. Only half as many managed bee colonies exist now in the US as did 25 years ago so this is especially troubling. It has been heavily reported in the US and is beginning to show up in Europe. Several diseases, mites, fungi, pesticides and contaminants are now being investigated.
The best and most likely explanation is the Varroa destructor. This mite comes from Asia but the Asian bees have adapted to the mite by grooming the mite off of each other. Here in the US the mites often cause deformed wings and colonies can collapse in as little as two weeks after infection.
The mite itself is not believed to cause the bee deaths but rather to weaken the bees immune systems enough that other viruses and bacterias take hold and infect the bees. Adding evidence to that possiblity GOX ( glucose oxidase ) is found in reduced levels in the honey produced by infected bees. GOX is put into the honey to sterilize the honey.
A German study has linked cell phone radiation to CCD but there is little evidence yet to back this up.
This is not the first time Colony Collapse Disorder has been seen, it was documented as early as 1896 and also has been called ‘disappearing disease’, ‘spring dwindle’, ‘May disease’, ‘autumn collapse’, and ‘fall dwindle disease’. The 2004-05 colony collapse was attributed to the Varroa virus, often in past collapses the cause has not been identified.
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If you want to help the bees plant a bee pocket garden.
I thought all bees lived in hives like honey bees. Turns out that 85% of bees live alone, not in hives. They build nests in dirt. They will need water nearby and prefer to lay eggs in soft mud rather than packed dry dirt. Dead trees or rotting logs are also good spots for nests.
To attract bees to your garden:
– Use a large variety ( 10 or more is best ) of bee friendly plants in your garden.
– Pass on the mulch, many bees lay eggs in the ground and need bare dirt to do so.
– Flowering weeds are often good providers of nectar.
– Modern hybrids often do not have much nectar compared to heirloom plants.
– Don’t use pesticides.
An added benefit is that butterflies and hummingbirds will also be attracted to your bee garden.
Some entomologists are so convinced of the importance of creating backyard habitats that they’re planting bee gardens in their own yards. Noticing that the gardens in his neighborhood are mostly filled with hybrid flowers, Lansing, Mich., entomologist Rufus Isaacs has planted native perennials and berries that attract hordes of bees — as well as nervous neighbors. “The bees are too busy eating to worry about humans as long as you watch and don’t bother them,” Mr. Isaacs says. Gardens with a buzz: gardeners work to protect beleaguered bees
I thought I’d start a pocket bee garden. I have a bed that is surrounded with Mexican Heather. The bees love the Mexican Heather. There are humming bird feeders just above the garden. They and the butterflies like many of the same flowers that the bees like.
I went to the nursery with no idea what plants to purchase. I was planning on just looking for native plants that hadn’t been over hybridized. Finding the right plants turned out to be an easy task. I found I could watch a while and some plants were full of bees, and some varieties the bees totally ignored. Now I’ll be watching for bees on all the plants I purchase.
Guide to bee – friendly gardens