According to the National Geographic News website, the domestic honey bee population has decreased 50% in as many years (Roach, 2004). Many reasons are blamed for the decrease in honey bee numbers including diseases and pesticides. Scientists have given the decline in honey bee population phenomenon a name, Colony Collapse Disorder. While some experts maintain that Colony Collapse Disorder is a nuisance and not a catastrophe, it is a serious problem affecting domestic honey bees worldwide.
Colony Collapse Disorder is a phenomenon affecting domestic and wild honey bee colonies worldwide. Basically what is happening is worker bees are leaving the hive and not coming back but disappearing. There are warning signs of a hive on the verge of collapse. Queen bees are seen outside of the hive is one warning sign of impending collapse. Another is juvenile bees making up the workforce. The juvenile bees are not capable of caring for the larvae. Bees also will not eat their own stores. Once a hive has collapsed, the hive appears to be abandoned by adult bees with young still in the hive. After a hive has collapsed, some of the bees predators, like wax worms, will not invade the hive (Eccleston, 2007).
The New York Times, 2007
One believed cause of this disorder is bees being infected with micro-organisms. These micro-organisms might be affecting the bee’s immune system (Barrionuevo, April, 2007). Most researchers are blaming a parasite for the heavy decline in the bee population. The parasite, varroa mites, is a blood-sucking mite that hitches rides on worker bees backs. Once the mites are in the hive, the female mites bury themselves into the bottom of brood cells. The female mites then feed on the larvae and lay their own eggs (Bejamin, 2008). Once a colony is infected with this mite the colony can collapse within a few days (Latham, 2008). This still does not explain why the bees leave and do not return or why there are few dead bees in the collapsed hive. Some researchers believe that since almost all the cases of Colony Collapse Disorder have occurred among commercial bee keepers that the problem must be with the beekeeping practices (Eccleston, 2007). One possible cause is the use of pesticides on commercial crops. This could be a reason it appears that most of the commercial bee keepers are showing problems with Colony Collapse Disorder.
The effects to our everyday life would reach into all areas. First, the shrinking bee population would affect our grocery lists. We would lose honey followed by most fruits and vegetables. We would no longer have cotton. Animals that are dependent on grain would come next. With the loss of cows, goats, and other milk giving live stock, cheese, milk, ice cream, and other dairy products would be eliminated from our diets. One would also have to take into consideration of the life saving medicines that are made from botanicals (Barrionuevo, April, 2007).
Presently there is research being done all over the United States and the world looking for a solution to this problem. A researcher with the state of Pennsylvania is looking at the possibility of an “immune suppression” type of disease that is affecting the honey bees. This disease is being compared to the AIDS disease in humans (Barrionuevo, February, 2007). Pesticides have been considered for controlling the mites believed to be afflicting the honey bees. There are risks with using these pesticides. Keeping this in mind, researchers are looking for alternatives to using pesticides. One possibility is a fungus that only attacks the mites and not the bees. The problem researchers are faced with is how to introduce the fungus into the hives (Roach, 2004).
Robbin Thorp, an emeritus professor at UC Davis, has suggested using other bee species to do the work of the honey bees (Nielsen, 2006). Still others say that commercial...