Imagine suddenly during one winter over 1/3 of the population in the United States was no more. That’s over 100,000,000 people. Not just died, but disappeared. Without definite cause or circumstance. Simply vanished. And the remaining population appeared too weak and disoriented to help rebuild the sudden collapse of the social structure within our country. Imagine that, and you might have an understanding what it’s like to be a bee today.
What is Colony Collapse Disorder?
There is an epidemic facing today’s bees. One without a sure cause and without a sure cure. Beekeepers and apiaries have always faced periods of decline. Oftentimes this is attributed to weather-related issues, overfarming of bees leading to scarce food supply, parasites, disease, or other related phenomena. Usually, the cause is determined and the bees have always bounced back. But more recently a new a frightening occurrence happened in 2006/2007 alone, with the mysterious loss of around 800,000 bee colonies — accounting for tens of billions of bees. And this sort of loss has continued every year since. This pale horseman of the beepocalypse has been dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD.
CCD has presented itself in ways unlike other diseases or problems we’ve seen in the past. Instead of simply dying off, the bees completely abandon their colonies and disappear. In collapsed colonies, CCD is suspected when a complete absence of adult bees is found in colonies, with no or little buildup of dead bees in the hive or in front of the hive. A colony that has collapsed from CCD is generally characterized by a number of things occurring simultaneously:
- Presence of capped brood in abandoned colonies: Bees normally will not abandon a hive and swarm until the baby bees have all hatched.
- Presence of adequate food stores of both honey and bee pollen still remains in the hive.
- Presence of the queen bee. If the queen is not present, the hive died because it was queenless, which is not considered CCD.
Sometimes there are signs that may arise before the final colony collapse, including:
- Insufficient workforce to maintain the brood that is present
- Workforce seems to be made up of only young adult bees
- The colony members are reluctant to consume provided food, even things like sugar syrup and protein supplement.
This mystery disorder and disappearance is happening on a grand scale unlike anything ever seen before and is why, around the world, beekeepers, organizations, and entire nations are gathering together to help address and solve this problem.
So what causes Colony Collapse Disorder?
We’ll address this in our next segment on CCD, and why it can be such a mystery to figure out…