Colony Collapse Disorder

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Colony Collapse Disorder

Bees are weird animals. They know how to count to four based on a experiment done at the University of Queensland; they communicate with one another through dancing and pheromones; their fat bodies make them one of the least aerodynamic creatures that have ever left the ground; they can carry one hundred and twenty two times their body weight; and have personalities that have been characterized as anything from “thrill-seekers” to “pessimistic”1,2. The oddest thing about bees is their mysterious disappearances due to Colony Collapse Disorder, a condition where many adult bees never return to the hive.  In order to understand what is happening today about concerning Colony Collapse Disorder, let’s first get a better understanding of the bees. Since the time of the great Egyptian civilizations, the honeybee has been the symbol of hard work, unity, and cooperation. Bees live in colonies and work for the good of the hive. There are workers bees; one queen who lays all the eggs; the nurse bees look after the baby bees and the queen; the drones or better known as the queen’s gigolos; guard bees who protect the hive; and forage bees that go out and collect food and water3. Easily, the most important job of the bees is pollination.  Known to many as that time when your car turns from black to yellow in a night, pollination is the process that pollen is transported from plant to plant for reproductive purposes. Bees may be little, but their affect on the economy through pollination is quite significant $15 billion in U.S. crop production4.  For any child who has ever feared the sight of broccoli or any other vegetable on a dinner plate, a world without bees may just be the best thing since bubble wrap. Unfortunately, a world without bees would drive the price of food to all time highs, while the quantity of food would drop. Pennsylvania’s acting state apiarist (beekeeper), Eric vanEnglesdorp, said in the documentary Vanishing of the Bees, “If we want a diet that is more than gruel, more than wheat, oats, corn, and rice, we need honeybees”3. The broccoli is starting to look better now, huh?  To further vanEnglesdorp’s point, S.E. McGregor famously said in his book Insect Pollination of Cultivated Crop Plants, “it appears that perhaps one-third of our total diet is dependent, directly or indirectly, upon insect-pollinated plants”5. Many crops, including apples, almonds, strawberries, nuts, asparagus, cucumbers, and berries are nearly or completely dependent on the pollination process3, 4. The enormity of the bees’ affect is so great that even Albert Einstein once said, “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!” A bee apocalypse may not mark the beginning of the end of the human race, but those flower-filled strolls through the parks, mom’s baked apple pie at Thanksgiving, and Veggie Tales will be a thing of the past. There is no doubt a world without bees would upset the balance of our ecosystems and diets; soon we may see exactly what that world entails for us. Since 2006, scientists and beekeepers have noticed massive quantities of bees vanishing from their hives—around 33 percent of the bees in the US alone. Honeybee populations have dropped to their lowest total in fifty years4. Scientists have dubbed the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder.  Colony Collapse Disorder is a new label presently being given to a condition that is characterized by an unexplained rapid loss of a hive’s adult population6. The result is insufficient amounts of worker bees are present to maintain the hive, which leads to the colony’s eventual downfall3. This is not anything new to the beekeeping industry; since 1896, there have been more than eighteen different reported cases of bees vanishing around the world7.  Multiple countries including Taiwan, Chile, Argentina, France, China, Italy, and many others have experienced...
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