What is Colony Collapse Disorder?

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) ensues when the adult worker bee population vanishes and abandon the queen with only a few bees to take care of the young bees and some honey. While over the years, the number of identified cases of the phenomenon has declined, it is still considered a significant threat that affects even humans as bees help in agricultural production.

Identifying the Problem

CCD has been periodically observed as early as 1869, but during winter of ‘06-’07 losses of 50% have been reported. This was very unusual as there were no dead bees discovered, but the queen is left with an abundance of honey and her brood. The “collapse” is attributed to the unsustainability of the lack of worker bees in a colony, causing the remaining bees to perish. CCD is also a prevalent problem observed in Europe and Asia.

Possible Cause

Some pesticides can pose a risk to bees; that is why when using them, it is essential to check the label. Pesticide poisoning is another leading cause of bee mortality, but it is often confused with CCD. A heap of dead bees, usually observed in the case of pesticide poisoning, is absent for CCD.

Other Suspected Cause

  • Invasive mites, a parasite to honey bees
  • New Emerging Diseases and Pests
  • Modern Beekeeping Practices (Bee Rentals and Migratory Beekeeping)
  • Climate Change
  • Lack of Food/Poor Nutrition
  • Loss of Habitat
  • Absence of Genetic Diversity in Colonies
  • A combination of mentioned factors

How Does CCD Work?

The mechanisms for CCD is still currently unknown. However, scientists have identified a class of insecticide known as neonicotinoids to be highly toxic to bees. It is theorized that these chemicals affect bee development and behavior and create a compounding effect together with other factors leading to eventual colony collapse. These pesticides are believed to suppress the bees’ immune system making them more prone to pests and diseases. Another proposed effect is that it disrupts the pattern in which bees travel, resulting in them not returning to the hive. CCD Several sectors have been campaigning for the use of safer alternatives to these chemical compounds as chemical run-off is another threat to bee populations. However, its direct association with CCD hasn’t been proven yet.

Impact of CCD to Humans

Bees are essential pollinators of several agricultural plants such as squashes, watermelons, cashews, and almonds. They pollinate a third of the total crop species in the US. They are essential in commercial food production as wild insects are not reliable in pollinating vast areas of land. Many plants are primarily reliant on bees for pollination. Beekeeping has become an indispensable practice in modern agriculture. Thus, a decline in the bee population means a decrease in food production.

Countering the Collapse

The Department of Agriculture, together with the Environmental Protection Agency, has formed a task force to fight CCD. The government has employed environmental research and technology to combat the effects of CCD. Methods used include regular monitoring and data collection on bee farms, analysis of samples to combat pests and parasites. Preemptive research is also conducted to detect possible threats to the pollinators. Mitigating measures are also in place to improve bee survivability and habitat. These include studying the effects of pesticides to hive populations and repopulating the hive using mite-resistant bees. Beekeepers have been using more hives and queens for accounting for CCD and supplanting the population loss.

CCD may be a problem with complex causes. However, with scientific improvements and a decades-worth of information leading to an improved understanding of the phenomenon, we may be nearing a solution. You can do your part by planting wildflowers and refraining the use of pesticides.

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