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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 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. (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0029639).

      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. (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0032151)

      This is not an article, but it is a very informative congressional report of Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=SxaJTt3KgoEC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=Colony+Collapse+Disorder&ots=aWa4MKZaCh&sig=suSTozYxhe8emyypnt-RT63VMEo#v=onepage&q=Colony%20Collapse%20Disorder&f=false
      • 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.

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