As the weather warms, buds burst, flowers bloom, and gardens are planted. However, a large number of both wild and agricultural crops depend on bees for pollination and bees have been disappearing in alarming numbers. The phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD, has killed a large number of bees since its discovery in 2006. It causes bees to abandon hives and the cause or causes are still unknown.
It was first reported in 2006 by a Pennsylvania beekeeper who was overwintering colonies in Florida. By February of 2007, several beekeepers reported losses. That same year, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece, Germany, Poland, France, and Switzerland also reported losses.
David Tremblay, the Vermont State Apiarist, referred to Colony Collapse Disorder as a “phenomenon” rather than a “scientific diagnosis.” He also said that the definition may change. He said there had been high loss this past winter and losses seemed to be earlier than in previous years. He also said that causes were still unknown, but he cited more virulent viruses, habitat loss, and the pesticides known as neonicotinoids as possible causes. He also stated that more than half of bees are shipped to pollinate almond trees, which exposes them to other bees which was not a very “hygienic practice.” Tremblay also said that viruses could be shared through flowers between honey bees and bumble bees. If a virus is the cause, CCD could affect both honey bees and bumble bees. Honey bees are the genus apis and the European honey bee (apis mellifera) was introduced from Europe in the seventeenth century. Bumble bees are of the genus bombus and 50 species are native to North America. Honey bees also have perennial colonies, while those of bumble bees only last one season, with only the queen overwintering.
Laura Tangley states in “Being There for Bees” published the National Wildlife Federation, March 2016 that bees are needed to pollinate one third of food and beverage crops. She also said that scientists were worried about how climate change and pesticides affect bees. There is evidence of neonicotinoids affecting foraging and reproduction. According the same article, a federal biologist found 19 pesticides and breakdown products in 70% of bees. The Honey Bee Health Coalition, (honeybeehealthcoalition.og) 2019, cited varroa mites, the microsporidian parasite nosema, and viruses as possible causes. They also said that lack of a varied diet, due to declining wild spaces, increased monoculture, pesticide exposure, and selective breeding which reduces genetic diversity, also pose threats to bees.
In 2007 the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the USDA, formed a steering committee to research the possible causes of CCD and improve management practices.
While more research needs to be done, there are many steps that people can take. Bees are active from early spring to late fall and they need food and habitat throughout this time. Tangley states that planting flowers which bloom at different times of the year and eliminating pesticides in gardens can go a long way to helping bees.
COMING IN TWO WEEKS: So, what are good plants for bees, hummingbirds, and other wildlife? Find out how to help wildlife and have a beautiful garden. Don’t miss it!