Molly O'Connor

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Where would you place Colony Collapse Disorder in relation to the many other problems facing our society?

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating one out of every three bites of food we consume. They pollinate more than 90% of the fruits and vegetables we eat, resulting in a net input of 36 billion dollars annually to the global economy. In the winter of 2006, a strange phenomenon occurred within honeybee populations in the United States. Without any warning, millions of honeybees disappeared from their hives. No bee carcasses were found, and it was observed that only worker bees were disappearing. Worker bees are responsible for collecting pollen, nectar, raising brood, and other essential hive functions. This loss of worker honeybees resulted in unstable honeybee hives, and led to the most serious die-off of honeybee colonies across the country recorded to date. Scientists have dubbed this occurrence Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is still occurring to this day. It is likely that multiple stresses are causing the collapse of honeybee colonies globally. It is widely believed that honeybees are the “canary in the coal mine” for our environment, and that the disappearance of the honeybee is a sign that our global ecosystem is in peril.

Where would you place Colony Collapse Disorder in relation to the many other problems facing our society? What tools, approaches, and collaborations are required to “get the ball rolling” and lay the groundwork for solving this issue?

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    Mar 14 2012: E.O. Wilson the famous Biologist once said, 'The earth will do just fine if human's become extinct, but if insects and pollinators go extinct, game over'. (paraphrased)
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      Mar 15 2012: Sounds wonderful. I think this is the one you were thinking of...

      If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.

      And here's another EO Wilson quote that I feel is fitting.
      We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity.

      Thanks Craig!
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    Mar 14 2012: If my garden gnomes keep disappearing, I can speculate that they have been stolen. Based upon when i last saw them, I can speculate when it happened. Therefore I can get new gnomes, mount watch and confirm whether my speculations are true when I catch the thief red-handed. Anything wrong in that method? As these are worker bees, their bodies will not be lying dead in nicely organized groups for us to analyze...we won't even see them...picked off by ants and the like. We can only begin our studies based on what we think could have been the factors involved in their disappearance...pure speculation in other words...but a scientist's speculation. What Molly is doing is trying to make us aware of the problem so that we may take an interest and make sure that studies into this field are properly financed. I don't see the problem in that.
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    • Mar 15 2012: Education should be a major part of a solution to the disappearance of honey bees. If more people knew about the risks that were out there if there were no honey bee pollination than there would be more of a will to start their own hives. The education can also include a portion dedicated to educating them that honey bees do not want to sting you because they will die. I know a lot of people who are more scared and who would like to see bees go, but only because they think that their purpose is to sting or harm you. Through early education you can disprove this and more people would be will to have their own hives for honey bees. I do agree that it speculation is the main route to solving and discovering new solutions to our past, present, and future problem and this can always begin with education.
      • Mar 15 2012: I know some of the efforts to counteract colony collapse disorder include starting your own bee colony, mason bees have been specifically recommended for this. I do not know much about mason bees, or distribution of native populations of bees throughout the country, or world, but I wonder if us bringing in non-native bees could be a factor contributing to colony collapse disorder. Was there an initial increase in bee populations once they started being used to pollinate cash crops? I am curious how the baseline population of bees compares with the current population.
  • Mar 15 2012: Based on the bio-economic issues associated with CCD I feel that it should be placed fairly high on the list of issues our society faces. Without the bees pollinating our crops, our ability to feed our nations population will drop drastically. This means that CCD will cause a chain reaction, a loss of pollination, less crops, less money, less food, and more hungry people. WE need more research into how we can stop CCD.
  • Mar 15 2012: The book entitled, "Towards Saving the Honeybee" by Gunther Hauk is a great tool for insights into what cocnstitutes a healthy hive. If one has a deep interest in the Honeybee, a further study might be to read " Wisdom of the Bees" by Erik Berrevoets. The movie you referenced is an excellent overview of this crisis. Another great resource is the documentary Film " Vanishing of the Bees".
    Aloha, Bobby
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    Mar 15 2012: Could it be a microbe? Maybe we should be sequencing microbial communities associated with bees.

    Here is a link to another conversation on this
    Beesource Beekeeping Forums:

    It looks like they have found a consistent colony associated with healthy beehives...
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    Mar 15 2012: Like many are saying, CCD is a mysterious problem with no known causes or solutions. For this reason, I think it is very important to educate people about this issue and hope that by raising awareness, we can also increase funding for research regarding this dilemma. I didn't know about CCD until a couple days ago and this is a thing that has been going on for 6 YEARS. Not only that, but I'm a biology major. There are so many people living in the United States who know nothing about the bee crisis and therefore don't know that it needs funding and attention. I think spreading the word is the first order of business on our bee-saving agenda.
    • Mar 15 2012: I agree, education on the issues is very important, it will allow the general public to become aware of the issue. HOwever we are still not exactly sure what is causing CCD, so how do we prioritize it on our list of social issues, do we go head first and tell everyone the bees are going to disappear or wait and see what research reveals?
      • Mar 15 2012: It is fairly common knowledge by now that our honey bee populations are at a very disastrous decline. I first found out about it my freshman year when it was advertised on the side of a milk carton, and since then there have been many news editorials, TV reports, and documentaries explaining the significance of the calamity to the general public. Unfortunately, like the coverage of the Occupy movement, this story is difficult to keep fresh in the minds of a TV audience. What's more, you are right about how hard it is to prioritize it on our list of ever-increasing social issues. We are, however, talking about food, one of our basic needs as human beings. Losing the pollinators of nearly half of our total food stocks will prove devastating to the economy, and more importantly it will potentially cause the deaths of millions of people around the world. We need to address CCD as one of our priorities as far as social issues go.
  • Mar 15 2012: It seems to me that colony collapse disorder is something that should be a top priority in comparison to other problems we are facing. Bees provide a a vital part of ecosystems, providing the ecosystem service of pollination that allows many other trophic levels to exist. From what I can tell research has not yet been conclusive in understanding why this is taking place. I know some suggestions of causes such as parasites, pesticide use, or malnutrition have been thrown around, but I have not heard about how we may be directly causing this, Colonies are transported for hours at a time. Has this added stress been considered when thinking about why there is a decline in honeybees? Are other populations of bees facing losses, or primarily the bees that are used for mass agriculture pollination?
    • Mar 15 2012: I agree with a lot of the things you bring up Lia. The bees are a fundamental aspect to our food chain and in the species interactions of many communities. I think that we could be a direct cause with all the destructive and harmful things we put into the environment. If if is not directly related to the toxic things we are expelling into the atmosphere every day then there is surely a link to the climate change (which we are directly causing) and the bees decline. Perhaps the bees are facing similar to effects as some species of butterflies. Monarch butterflies migrate every year at a specific time, but since the climate has changed so much recently their migration patters have been throw off. Perhaps those safe effects are happing to the bees, but killing them instead of just changing their biological functions?
  • Mar 15 2012: Colony collapse disorder should be at the top of our list for research in today's society. We need to research the cause of what is happening to these worker honey bees and determine what the cause to their disappearance is. In A New Threat to Honey Bees, the Parasitic Phorid Fly Apocephalus borealis, Andrew Core and colleagues discovered the parasitic fly which kills or disorientates the honey bee. They say that there are no fly colonies around the hive itself, so the fly most likely comes in contact with the worker honey bee when it is away from the hive. I think that if we could spend more time researching this topic then we could possibly find ways to kill this parasitic fly saving our pollinators. If it turns out that they are not the actual cause of the Colony Collapse disorder due to there being no carcasses being found then we could spend time researching other possible effects like climate change in a laboratory. In the big picture it would be cheaper to spend the time doing research on the cause of the disappearance of the honey bee than the amount of money that we would have to spend pollinating our own crops.
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    Mar 14 2012: As a beekeeper and a landscape ecologist I consider all risks to honeybees (to all pollinating insects) to be a huge risk to plant survival - and thus to life in general. CCD is a major issue for the agriculture industry - if agro-chemical products are found to cause or contribute to CCD - It will be the new Silent Spring.

    I have not experience CCD, or any other significant bee disease, but since the underlying cause of this disorder is unknown there is no room for complacency.

    My gut feeling is that CCD is caused by a combination of factors e.g. a toxic mix of agro-chemicals (much like Gulf War Syndrome) that weakens the bees, together with other stressors such as regular relocation of hives or mono-culture agricultural cropping providing a restricted variety of pollen and nectar sources.

    Since the result of CCD is the non return of foraging worker bees - they either

    died suddenly on mass from an unknown disease - unlikely,
    died suddenly from poisoning or from the effect of previously consuming toxic substances or compounds,
    got lost and could not find their way back to the hive, - unknown reason as to why this should happen,
    over reached themselves and failed to make it back to the hive - unlikely, but not impossible,
    genetic failure - perhaps we have bread less robust bees that drop dead before their allotted time!
    • Mar 14 2012: I fully agree with your intro statements Heather, CCD is indeed a large risk to not only plant survival, but the survival of many other species as well.

      Our understanding of CCD, while entirely incomplete has come a long way since it's first appearance in 2006 and scientists have noted several pathogens and parasites responsible for the collapse of honey bee hives. I am curious as to why you believe that a sudden die off from unknown diseases is an unlikely source of a colonies collapse.

      Here is an article about a recently discovered parasitic fly known to affect honey bees and could be a major component of CCD.

      All of your points were good, I would just impose caution when ruling out potential factors, especially powerful factors such as diseases.
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        Mar 14 2012: Hi Tony, I noted disease as the first obvious cause, but stated that in my opion it was unlikley - not impossibe - a disease element may prove to be part of the answer - as a weakening stressor. My reasoning is that since CCD is so widespread in the USA and so catastrophic, the bee world is examining bee populations for disease in great detail and, to my knowledge, no disease determination has been uncovered (I'm not totally up to date, of course, as research is proceeding all the time). If disease was a significant cause it should be present in the remining bees in the colasped colonies or in the hive. I'll read your link with interest.
  • Mar 14 2012: I think for the neophytes out there that we are talking about Honey Bee Health in general. CCD is just a temporary name that stuck and 7 years later we know that there are many factors that are causing Honey Bee Health challenges. The most important is the Varroa destructor mite that is a parasite on many life stages of Honey Bees. Make a fist. Put that fist someplace on your body. That is about how large the Varrroa mite is proportionally on a Honey Bee. Not only does it casue damage directly from feeding on the haemolymph (blood) of the Honey Bee but it casues immunosupression and vectors viruses. Add in the chemicals that beekeepers use directly to control Varroa, environmental toxins that bees are exposed to as they forage from your backyard to the golf course to the lawn that Chemlawn just treated, artifical diets, incomplete natural diets and the stress of prodcution beekeepeing and honey bees just are not healthy. In my mind it is not CCD it is Honey Bee Health and how can we make it better. Where would I rank Honey Bee Health? There are 7 Billion people on earth heading towards 9 who should be eating everyday to stave off famine, wars for resources, plagues and disease. Honey Bees are the keystone, foundational pollinator of agriculture and many parts of the enviroment. You make the decision.
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      Mar 15 2012: I really like what you say, but you are just arguing that what is happening should should change. Why not suggest a way to change it?
      • Mar 15 2012: You are corect Clinton. Until one know the real poroblem and associated casues and collateral damage the picture is incomplete. We are not going to change all of the negative inputs into a colony of Honey Bees but if we understand what we can do and make that better then we can then focus on the next challenge. In this century there may seem to be clear cut answers but there are not. Life is a process of negotiation and compromise.
        Charles Darwin said something that I have always remembered, To paraphrase, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives;nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change".
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    Mar 14 2012: Pesticides, herbicides.
    Roundup (Monsanto)

    Quote: "The pesticide problem
    While CCD is a complex issue, no-doubt, much of the developing research points to another cause: newfangled chemicals called systemic pesticides. Instead of being applied to leaves, they are enrobed on seeds and/or entrenched in the soil, allowing for the poison to literally become part of the plant.

    Consequently, honeybees bring the systemic pesticides back to the hive in the form of pollen and nectar and store it in their honeycomb. When future generations dip into their reserves, they ingest toxins that target their central nervous system, affect their navigational capabilities and impair their memory. More importantly, the chemicals compromise their immune system – the number one key to fighting any kind of insult to the body, including a virus like IAPV."
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      Mar 15 2012: Another thing about the pesticide theory is that honey bees are very loyal to certain plants. They tend to follow a set pattern until those flowers are no longer providing them with pollen and nectar and then they will move on. If the pesticides are truly getting into the plants then every time that worker bee obtains resources from the same plants, it's as if they are bringing more pesticide into the hive and exacerbating the situation. Thank you so much for the information.
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    Mar 14 2012: The fact that we all know these issues and problems but governments wont support the people like you and me trying to raise awareness and action. Social media needs to change to being just social to social actions lots of people are try to get productivity on lots of thretening issues and problems we need real united efforts and actions to make real lasting solutions. we all put lots of energy to are debates and logic but we don't produce lasting results. maybe some people like us are trying so how do we get them connected and moving beyond are busy lives we need big amounts of people that support this idea. I'm how many ted members are and can make lasting changes I'm try to contact you all because were all fed up with people doing nothing or they don't have what they need to get to work on it the world economy and governmants need to work but because of poor or none educated people with 0 ability thats the problem I'm just saying what you all already know so stand up and get people to become more interacted on this topic.
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      Mar 15 2012: Solidus, I think you make a great point that WE know about colony collapse disorder being a problem. Where I think we're lacking is that the majority of people around the world are just learning about it. Colony collapse disorder was first observed in the US over the winter of 2006/2007 and it's now 5 years later and the general public is just beginning to get the word and the understanding. Do you have any ideas on how we could get help to get the word out to more people around the world and how we can motivate them to encourage their respective governments to support research and action?
  • Mar 14 2012: I would place CCD at the top of the list for problems that need immediate, nation-wide attention. The implications of honey bees disappearing are far reaching and would affect the public fairly rapidly, compared to other environmental concerns. The fact that the symbiotic relationship between bees and flowering plants is collapsing is nothing short of devastating. This relationship has been flourishing for millions of years, and such a sudden collapse is not natural or normal in any way. So much of our world depends upon the pollination of plants. No society could make it through a decade without bees, at least not without morbid consequences. If there is any issue the nation, and world, needs to work together to get to the bottom of, it is this one. As far as the impact on humanity, this makes a 'silent spring' seem like a minor, insignificant issue. The nation was able to put priority on discovering and fixing what was wrong with our national bird in the 1960s. An issue that threatens our food supply should be that much more of a priority. This is potentially a national security issue that dwarfs terrorism. Educating the public will help "get the ball rolling". The idea of bees declining scares people, but it seems no one knows the potential consequences or doesn't want to think about them. Haagen-Dazs is doing a good job raising awareness. They know that if there's a decline in bees they will be deeply impacted. Other food companies should become aware of the potential losses they will face if this trend continues. I feel that if our nation made this a priority we would be able to solve this issue like we have been able to in the past. Humanity has able to accomplish what were once impossible feats, and saving the honey bees could be our chance to prove ourselves again.
    • Mar 15 2012: I totally agree with you; CCD is a problem that needs immediate action. And I really like your idea of spreading awareness through the actions of food companies. These companies will be directly affected by the loss of pollinators and, because they depend on bees for their livelihood, food companies should be investing heavily in research and conservation efforts. It would make sense for them to be legitimately concerned about this issue, as CCD could completely change the food industry. In addition, I think the FDA and the FAO should be helping to raise awareness on both a national and global scale, and public education is the first step in resolving this kind of issue.
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    Mar 14 2012: How many people have come across lone bees not covered in pollen,just sitting there,sluggishly moving it's antennae,it may move forward abit then freeze?i've taken a few out to flowers left them there comeback a few hours later and found it dead.Can't say it's not natural way for them to die off but i did find it strange how sluggish the bee's was considering they looked in perfect health.
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      Mar 15 2012: I believe that's part of the problem Ken. If a honey bee knows that it is dying, it will leave the hive. Bee keepers have seen the sizes of their hives decreasing and yet there are no bee carcasses for them to study or take somewhere for study. Without a body, it's hard to determine the cause of death. As for the strange behavior, the hard part there is that it could be caused by a lot of things. Internal parasites could be having an affect on organs. Pesticide poisoning could be affecting them. It's a situation where we need the dead bees to study and determine what the cause is, because as you stated, they look normal and then they're dead.
  • Mar 14 2012: The fact that 90% of our fruits and vegetables are a result of the pollination done by honeybees, I believe, is a great reason for us to be worried about our future without them. What baffles me is their mysterious disappearance! If there are no carcasses then where did they go?
    As for their importance on our list of environmental issues facing our society, I believe that honeybees are tied into each in every issue. Be it the loss of genetic diversity among many species, climate change, water pollution, or even pesticide use. Since the reason for C.C.D. remains unknown, I think it's completely valid for us to consider it a high priority issue. To take something as C.C.D. lightly seems quite naive, as it is a phenomenon that is unexplained. The cost of replacing honeybee pollination practices with manual labor of pollinating our fruits and vegetable seems unimaginable to me. The best way to tackle this issue on the rise would be to research each and every thing that could be causing C.C.D. If that means we must take educated guesses then that may be the price we have to pay. The survival of the honey bees seems critical to not only many plant species but us, humans, as well.
    • Mar 15 2012: Potential reasons that there are no carcasses - predators are consuming them, or perhaps CCD is caused more so by reproductive barriers than the mass death of worker bees? I have to do some more research on the subject, but is it possible at all that the reduction in the worker bee population can be attributed to the queen bee not producing as many eggs?
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    Mar 14 2012: Back in 2006 when it hit worldwide i immediately jumped on the "It's the Wi-Fi" which in my country was starting to take it's place in gadgets.i thought that overlapping spheres of signals disrupted the bees sense of placement position.I won a dvd in the local net magazine for best hysteria speculation.

    I'm going to read all these links as i haven't seen a swarm in years.I guess if we lose them we'll be too busy hand pollinating all day to worry about war.
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      Mar 14 2012: Ken, that is a possibility, although I cannot find any peer reviewed research on the topic.

      What is scary is that in the past, bees have disappeared before, but not at this caliber. It could possibly be caused by new factors that are introduced or have changed over time (such as pesticides,cellular signal, or cilmate change, etc). So, that is why it is good to keep our minds open because the world has been changing, but as we can see the honeybee cannot adapt as quickly to this change. That is why for the last 6 years Colony Collapse Disorder has been a threat to honeybee populations. Let us hope we don't need to start had pollinating our crops.
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        Mar 15 2012: Hi molly,i came across this

        Our reliance on just the honey bees could be the problem,we might have to diversify.
        • Mar 15 2012: good article Ken. Speaking of other pollinators, has everyone forgotten about our native pollinator, the bumblebee? I think one thread mentioned it below. Honeybees are an invasive species from Europe that are good at pollinating large monoculture crops, while bumblebees are better at pollinating diverse tracts of land, like meadows and gardens. As many have said, the real problem here is our current way of doing things, i.e. current large-scale agriculture, for SO many reasons, not least of which is that the current way we are going about pollinating is unsustainable. If we change the way we do things, either the honeybees themselves could come back, or, we can give other pollinators the chance to pick up the slack. We always want to "fix" the problem by fixing the bees - maybe we need to fix ourselves! They have been around a whole lot longer than we have!!!
    • Mar 15 2012: This is a somewhat unlikely explanation.

      Quite a bit is known about how bees navigate and communicate (all of which is fascinating!). Much of this work was done by Karl von Frisch and co.:,
      which was work for which they won the Nobel Prize.

      It's believed that bees navigate using one of two cues: either the position of the sun in the sky, or the polarization of the sky ( Polarization of light is something that us humans can't pick up, but some insects have evolved to be able to detect it. By combining these two navigation tools they can orient themselves even on a cloudy day.

      Since neither of these techniques is sensitive to microwave radiation (what cell phones use) it doesn't seem that tons of cell phone towers are a likely explanation.

      To ramble a little more away from CCD...what do bees do with all this navigational equipment? Well, for one they use it to get to and from the colony. But they also pass on this information to other bees! When a bee comes back to the colony it does this dance, I think the technical term is "waggle dance," in which the "steps" encode a message about where food is. They relay information both about how far away the food is and what angle relative to the sun other bees need to travel at to reach the food.
      Pretty clever for such a small insect!
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        Mar 15 2012: Oh, yeah i knew that,but at the time all i could think of was how every living creature, except for a few, carry magnetite? particles? that help in general orientation,i think we have it in our ears or cells i can't was almost a superstitious reaction i had though i do remember that i had an argument with a friend over sunspot activity,it was rubbish.
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    Mar 14 2012: The impact of Colony Collapse Disorder is quite vast and potentially can bring a world of destruction to not only the US, but also the rest of the world. But I'm quite curious as to the basic evolutionary principles behind this event. We have lots of agriculture that requires pollination from European Honeybees, but there are a variety of other bee species that exist. If, god forbid, we lost all Apis mellifera, wouldn't solitary bees and other bee species thrive from the empty niche that is created?
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      Mar 14 2012: It's definitely something to consider. If there were to be a vacancy in pollination from the loss of the honey bees, would something else step in to meet the need for pollination, be it mason bees, or hummingbirds, flies, bats, etc.? I know from watching an episode of Nature called Silence of the Bees, that in China they experienced a loss of honey bees that were pollinating their pear trees and now those trees are hand pollinated by humans. It's a rather lengthy process of collecting the pollen, drying it for 2 days and then returning with chicken feathers and using those as a paintbrush to apply the pollen back to the flowers.

      Here's a link to the episode.
    • Mar 14 2012: I agree that when a species does go to extinction the open niche that is left behind will quickly be filled. In some cases the species that fills the gap will be able to preform very similarly as the extinct species and keep the social structure running smoothly. However if there is not a species that can fill the niche with similar characteristics then this will have ripple effects through the whole community. Community structure is highly dependent of all of the organisms within it and their interactions. If one link to the whole structure is weakened the whole structure will shift to accommodate the difference. The entire bee community is a fundamental aspect to the basis of many higher beings lifestyles. As Molly opened the conversations with these bee populations are responsible for one of every three bites of food we take. This is huge. Perhaps our focus on climate change should be more specific to the effects it has on the foundation organisms, such as the bees.
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      Mar 14 2012: CCD happens so quickly, could other species respond quickly enough to fill the pollination gap in time to meet the needs of 7 billion hungry humans? I think not.

      Other species of bee, such as the bumble bee, does not over winter as a colony - only the Queen overwinters and lays a new generation each spring - colony building takes time to reach productivity - thus bumble bees would miss early flowering plant species such as cherry and apple. The value of the honeybee is their ability to overwinter as a colony and, therefore, respond in spring quickly.
    • Mar 14 2012: This is certainly a possibility Rishi, however we have to consider the time span when new niches are opened up. In the realm of evolution, new niches for a particular species rarely crop up; They can occur if the extinction of another population occurs (such as your example of losing Apis. Melifera), however they can also occur during foundation events when a species enters a new habitat for the first time.

      Needles to say, neither of these events happen often and, although evolution proceeds comparatively rapidly during foundation events we are still talking about hundreds if not thousands (if not much more) of years for a species to adapt and fulfill a niche effectively. Meanwhile the economic losses of losing effective pollinators such as Apis. Melifera would be felt immediately.
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        Mar 15 2012: That helps put this more into perspective Tony, however, I really want to think about the positive possibilities of such an outcome. Although it will be devastating in the short term, is their any way we can learn from this situation? Perhaps such of a disaster like this may encourage the transition away from a monoculture based agriculture, promote variety among our diet. This is definitely a tragedy upon our hands, but since we are limited in our ability to save these bees, are their other measures we can take to reduce the impact of their loss? The episode on how China copes with the lack of pollination shows human populated plants, although the act is labor intensive this creates jobs. What other measure should we be taking besides trying to save the bees?
        • Mar 15 2012: Rishi, I was truly thinking along the same lines of how this may become a positive in creating more jobs. As my thought was underway though, I thought, is the creation of more jobs more important than saving our ecosystem? Instantaneously, I shut down that very capitalistic driven thought of mine but, I can see many people taking advantage of the current economic situation and implanting thoughts such as the disappearance of bees being a positive, as it would create more jobs, for personal gains.
        • Mar 15 2012: Rishi, you bring up some interesting points that look at this in a more realistic manner. Since at this point and time we don't necessarily know what to do about the situation, maybe the most important thing that we can do is learn something from this situation instead of wallowing in fear and not accepting the notion of change. Perhaps this will show us the dangers of relying solely on one species and lead us to construct our diets around a more biodiverse cast of food-players. Or maybe new species will even come to fill the newly opened niches and spur the evolution of new species of food plants that end up providing an unimaginable wealth of nutrition, who knows. I think that sometimes the notion of preserving a snapshot of the Earth without regards to the evolutionary plasticity that all organisms experience can be somewhat dangerous. While it can definitely "suck" for something that we're so used to to not exist anymore, I think sometimes we are held back by these emotional connections to familiarity that we have instead of being open-minded to the near-infinite array of possibilities that the future can hold for this planet.
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    Mar 14 2012: Honey bees suffer from the same vulnerabilities that other mono-cultures do. Many people are starting to get into home bee keeping. Perhaps this same approach should be taken with other bee species. Instead of people having their own honey bee hives, they could have bumble bee hives, or some other indigenous bee. Its funny, I wouldn't mind a hive in my yard, but I don't particularly want to do digging in it for honey, so why honey bees? There are many species of bees that are threatened by loss of habitat.

    Speaking of mono-cultures, honey bees are severely stressed by agriculture. The problem is, because we are farming monocultures the bees exist in a boom and bust ecosystem. When a crop begins to pollinate, there is too much for local bees to handle, and when the crops are not pollinating, there is not enough wild habitat to sustain them for the rest of the year.

    Too overcome this bees are actually trucked all over the continent, chasing the pollination cycles of different crops. This is not natural, and provides greater opportunity for the spread of disease. Poor bees.

    In short, grow some flowers, and save some wild bees. You might just indirectly help the honey bees too.
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      Mar 14 2012: Yes, Scott, its a damning indictment on our agricultural industry that bees (insects / birds in general) do better in the urban environment than in our mono-culture agricultural fields.

      With a forage range of 5km some US and canadian flieds are bigger then a bee can fly! A single crop diet is bound to cause problems in nutrient deficiency - yet alone what happends at the end of the crops nectar flow.
  • Mar 13 2012: As I was researching about this topic, I found a great site by the U.S.D.A- A.R.S. (US Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Research Service). The site answers commonly asked questions about C.C.D.
    • Mar 14 2012: Thank you for adding this link! It definitely provides some good formal insight into what is going on with CCD as well as providing a reputable source for the general public to become more educated on the issue.
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    Mar 13 2012: I would place it below Climate change, but above the conservation of any other species, which means that it is very high. Bees effect so many other species that by saving them, we could feasibly be saving quite a few other species. Seeing as how it is caused by the culmination of many problems, it would make sense that it is very hard to fix, so why not instead have a captive breeding colony that will produce many queens, so that the queens can be entered into the current failing populations. This would just be a temporary fix, until the harder problems are fixed, such as pesticides, parasites, malnutrition, and climate change(which may never be fixed). It would be a way of adding time to the clock, though I don't know how to fix the actual problem.
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      Mar 14 2012: I agree that climate change should be one of our top priorities because it is affecting a lot of things and species downstream. In addition, I think the scary thing about CCD is that we don't know what's causing it and therefore we don't know how to fix it. It's stressful to think that by the time we commit enough money and research to finding out what is actually wrong, it could be too late.
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        Mar 15 2012: Well, a few people should take it upon themselves to fund research endeavors to fix the problem, but therein lies the problem. no one is funding this. Therefore, maybe they will just die off. As was said in your presentation, mason bees are a viable substitute, so could we just implement the use of them? If bees aren't protected, are they a possible replacement?
        • Mar 15 2012: I think the underlying issue is our current treatment of our bees. They are no longer a population of organisms in the eyes of the commercial world. They are a tool that we use like we do machines in a factory, and we are finally seeing that in doing so we are degrading them to non-functionality. We need to shift our focus from finding cures to their diseases so that they can continue to be used as pollinating machines for our general populous, and start treating them like necessary facets to the complex web of life.

          I do not mean to personify the honey bee, but I do believe that they have some capacity to understand a bummer situation when they experience it. Commercial bees are trucked and flown around the world at breakneck pace, they are not given adequate rest between pollination cycles, and they are fed high fructose corn syrup while they travel. That is like making a professional athlete practice around the clock without rest on a diet of potato chips and soda. It just isn't going to work out. If we are to resolve this issue, we need to start thinking of the kind of life a healthy bee is accustomed to, rather than trying to patch a miserable existence with futile injections and sprays.
    • Mar 15 2012: Yes, this is a very serious issue because of the potential ramifications it could have on our agriculture and food production. We cannot wait for an agricultural crisis before we take action. I do see the potential for human pollination, and I understand that this would create a large number of jobs, but the disappearance of bees would set off a number of other adverse effects that we cannot account for. For a business to be a sustainable, that business would only be interested in pollinating plants and crops that are needed for food production. I can't see how it would be fiscally responsible for a business to pay pollinators to pollinate plants that do not affect us. However the loss of these other plants would still have far reaching effects on the ecosystem, since many other species probably interact with them and depend on them for survival.
  • Mar 13 2012: This is a very high priority. Get your hands on the new documentary "Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?" for a comprehensive view of the importance of this subject. We must get educated. Then we must raise bees. And learn all the many, many influences that are contributing to this happening.
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      Mar 14 2012: Yes, exactly! I am seeing the documentary this Sunday. I cannot wait.
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    Mar 13 2012: who would we place it anywhere without knowing what does actually cause it? should we speculate wildly?
    • Mar 13 2012: In my opinion, the fact that so much about CCD is shrouded in mystery should serve as even more incentive for figuring out the causes for such a disorder, because it can have devastating impacts on both economic and ecologic processes that we so often take for granted. For example, this graph ( shows the percentages of various crops that rely on bee pollination services. What would our society do if there was all of a sudden either no almonds, blueberries, or apples? Or what if these kinds of food-items suddenly cost an exorbitant amount of money because instead of having populations of bees pollinate them naturally, we have to waste the time and effort of farmers to manually pollinate each tree by hand?
      If there were more attention surrounding this issue the causes of it could more easily be identified and possibly prevented, and we can continue to have [relatively] cheap almonds!
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        Mar 14 2012: Zane, thank you so much for adding this link. I agree with Krisztian that CCD is something very mysterious, but I feel like your link shows just how important honey bees are to society. The PBS show Nature did a program in 2007 called Silence of the Bees, discussing CCD, and in that they discussed pear trees in China that used to be pollinated by honey bees. Due to the loss of bees in China humans now have to collect pollen, dry it, and then hand pollinate each flower using chicken feathers as a pollen dispersal device. ( Overall, I feel that CCD is mysterious, but it's something that needs to be considered before we lose yet another species and it's associated ecosystem service.
      • Mar 15 2012: I agree with you, Zane. CCD should get attention precisely because we don't know the underlying causes of it, especially since it heavily impacts our economy and environment. Since so much life depends on pollination by bees, CCD should become a priority for research funding and public education programs. When we finally do figure out what causes CCD, we can start to solve the problems facing bees. Who knows, a cause of CCD might be something we already know a bit about but don't fully understand.
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      Mar 13 2012: Speculating wildly is surely preferable to not speculating at all, krisztián. It needs to be investigated and if people really have no idea why it's happening then speculation must be the basis for that investigation.
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          Mar 14 2012: The evidence is dead bees. Why are they dead?
      • Mar 15 2012: I agree. Speculation leads to investigation and research.
  • Mar 13 2012: I have heard of this and heard about it. Can you give me links to more data? Preferably good solid scientific sources?
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      Mar 14 2012: Sharon,

      There has been some solid research conducted in recent years. Just this last January an article was published called A New Threat to Honey Bees, the Parasitic Phorid Fly Apocephalus borealis. (

      Also, this article called Predictive Markers of Honey Bee Colony Collapse was published this year and is a great resource to look over some recent methods and data analysis techniques. In this paper, they used long term monitoring of colonies and screening for eleven disease agents and genes involved in bee immunity and physiology, so to identify predictive markers of honeybee colony losses during the winter season. (

      This is not an article, but it is a very informative congressional report of Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder.
      • Mar 14 2012: Thank you Molly, I'll read up on this in coming days. One of the reasons I asked is because we are staggeringly over run with bees in my personal region. Not honey bees, but many other types, some of which are quite aggressive. I have been trying to get a better read on what is causing this over run. We're currently battling these monster wasps!

        Do any of these other, less desirable obviously, bees serve as pollinators?? Not minimizing mind you, just wondering. This is most definitely not my area of expertise.
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          Mar 14 2012: Hi Sharon! Mason bees are also excellent pollinators and are not an aggressive species. Here's a link with a little information about the great pollination that they support.

          The other interesting thing about honey bees and Colony Collapse Disorder is that some of the possible causes are more universal than others. An example of this is that the honey bee mite Varroa destructor is only found in honey bees.
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          Mar 14 2012: They wouldn't be wasps would they sharon? as a island nation our native wasps came under severe competition from their bigger cousins which has now infested our shores,i show no mercy when i come across the more aggressive asian breeds that are here now,i've only seen our small native once in the last two years.If they have very long orange legs don't hesitate kill it.

          I think there was an instance a huge colony was found here or somewhere where the new queens couldn't make it out of the colony so they built onto their birth colony,it was exponential and eventually the colony spread across 10 to twenty meters in length,if i was you i would find the greatest concentration of wasps and start looking for something really big.
    • Mar 15 2012: Another piece of research that you might find interesting is:

      The researchers on this project (The post-doc on the project was supported by Haagen dazs, a company that depends heavily on honey for their bottom line!) tracked the viruses and bacteria that were native to bee colonies as they were moved across the United States in order to pollinate different crops.

      While they didn't find anything that would explain CCD, they did begin to unravel what makes up a "healthy" colony. Some of the most abundant viruses that they found in colonies had never been seen in bees before, and they were only abundant for a couple of months. This suggests that there is probably still a lot to be learned about bee biology!

      I think it's important when trying to figure out the cause of a disorder as potentially complicated as CCD to have a good sense of what would be ordinary in a colony. Otherwise you're just shooting in the dark.
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        Mar 15 2012: Mathew, thank you for the article! I think you are completely right, we must know what makes a good hive, before we start saying what makes a bad hive.