What Causes Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?

We will be paying a lot more for our food in the near future. Bee population has declined at a rate of one third every year since 2008. Meanwhile, the agricultural demand for pollinators is going up. Almonds, for example, depend 100% on hired bees for pollination. Bee populations are declining all over the country: a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

The ARS, an arm of the US Department of Agriculture, is paying close attention to CCD. And while there are a number of theories as to what is causing CCD, there’s not one in particular that stands out. Instead, the likely cause of CCD is the combination of multiple external stressors that weaken a colony. The ARS lists the following:

1. Pathogens: Viruses and bacteria.
2. Parasites: mites commonly infect colonies, as well as worms that grow on the walls of hives.
3. Management stressors: overcrowding, transport, and poor nutrition can also weaken a colony
4. Environmental stressors: Extreme weather conditions. The ARS also clumps pesticides and insecticides into this category, but it should have its own:
5. Chemical Stressors: Pesticides, fungicides, and pesticides.

While not one of these is the “smoking gun” for CCD, it is likely that a combination of stressors from one or more of these categories cause CCD. It’s a mysterious tragedy. A colony disappears without a trace. Just gone.

Recently, this early fall, we lost a few colonies of our own in Fallbrook, likely due to a combination of extreme heat and mites. We don’t use any pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides. Aside from putting stress on a colony, chemicals get into the honey and then we eat the honey. Not good.

So, what can be done? We can reduce as many stressors as in our power to do so. As beekeepers, we don’t use any chemicals, and we keep our bees spread out next to small, local agriculture that is pesticide-free.
We also check our colonies daily for signs of parasites and if discovered, take action to protect our bees. As a consumer, support your local businesses that practice safe and ethical beekeeping with transparency. Ultimately, the costs of putting food on the table depend on a healthy bee population.

“About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination.” – ARS, Honey Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder.

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” – A. Einstein

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