THE SILENT BUZZ
The Silent Buzz
April 11, 2008
American agriculture is addicted to honeybees and in the past few years we have begun to run short of them. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a significant disappearance of honey bee colonies that may be affecting bees in more than 22 states, threatens the production of crops dependent on bees for pollination as well as honey production. Of the 2.4 million colonies of bees in the United States, this need is projected to increase significantly over the next few years. This paper outlines the extensive research being done to prevent the collapse of the honeybee colony and steps being taken to remedy the situation.
The Silent Buzz
The domesticated European honeybee was introduced to North America 400 years ago by colonists at Jamestown and Williamsburg to provide their settlements with honey. Few bees native to the continent produced enough honey to make harvesting viable. Since then the honeybee has spread into every farmable corner of North America. The honeybee is a remarkable insect so small yet so vital to the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Autumn collapse, May disease, spring dwindle, disappearing disease and fall dwindle disease are all the names mistakenly given to colony collapse disorder. Autumn collapse was inappropriate because the bees are disappearing throughout the year. Dwindle implies a steady decline of the bees population while the actual rate of adult bee loss in population have not been recorded it is evident that colonies can quickly lose their workforce in a matter of weeks. Disappearing has been used to refer to other conditions that do not share the same symptoms as those being presented, and the term disease is commonly associated with a pathogenic agent. Colony “Collapse Disorder (or CCD) is a little-understood phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or Western honey bee colony abruptly disappear” (Mussen, 2004). While such disappearance has an early history of occurring, the term Colony Collapse Disorder was originally given to perceived disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in a majority of regions of North America in late 2006. In the spring of 2005, many of the migratory beekeepers who work in California almonds bloom discovered that their colonies had suffered heavy losses during the winter. Across the country, about one third of all commercial honeybee colonies died out. The result was a pollinator panic in the Central Valley. Fees for renting beehives shot up from forty eight dollars to as much as one hundred forty dollars per colony, a previously unheard of amount. Beekeepers traveled from as far away as Florida and North Carolina to service California’s almond groves. For the first time in fifty years, U.S. borders were opened to honeybees from New Zealand and Australia. The fate of 1.2 billion crops, more than half of all almond production worldwide rested on the slender back of the plagued honeybee. Honey bees are the most economically valuable pollinators of agricultural crops worldwide. Many scientists at universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) frequently state that bee pollination is involved in about one-third of the U.S. diet, and contributes to the production of a wide range of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, forage crops, some field crops, and other specialty crops (Johnson, 2006). Honey bee colony losses are not uncommon. However, current losses seem to differ from past situations in that colony losses are occurring mostly because bees are failing to return to the hive, which is for the most part unusual of bee behavior. Bee colony losses have been rapid, colony losses are occurring in large numbers, and the reasons for these losses remains largely unknown. To date, the potential causes of CCD, as reported by the scientists who are researching this phenomenon, include but...