Bee Die-off Alarms Beekeeper's, Crop Growers And Researchers
ScienceDaily - Apr. 23, 2007
An alarming die-off of honey bees has beekeeper's
fighting for commercial survival and crop growers wondering whether bees will be available to pollinate their crops
this spring and summer. Researchers are scrambling to find answers to what's causing an affliction recently named
Colony Collapse Disorder, which has decimated commercial beekeeping operations in Pennsylvania and across the
"During the last three months of 2006, we began to receive reports from commercial
beekeeper's of an alarming number of honey bee colonies dying in the eastern United States," says Maryann Frazier,
apiculture extension associate in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. "Since the beginning of the year,
beekeeper's from all over the country have been reporting unprecedented losses.
"This has become a highly significant yet poorly understood problem that threatens
the pollination industry and the production of commercial honey in the United States," she says. "Because the
number of managed honey bee colonies is less than half of what it was 25 years ago, states such as Pennsylvania can
ill afford these heavy losses."
A working group of university faculty researchers, state regulatory officials,
cooperative extension educators and industry representatives is working to identify the cause or causes of Colony
Collapse Disorder and to develop management strategies and recommendations for beekeeper's. Participating
organizations include Penn State, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agriculture departments in Pennsylvania
and Florida, and Bee Alert Technology Inc., a technology transfer company affiliated with the University of
"Preliminary work has identified several likely factors that could be causing or
contributing to CCD," says Dennis vanEngelsdorp, acting state apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of
Agriculture. "Among them are mites and associated diseases, some unknown pathogenic disease and pesticide
contamination or poisoning."
Initial studies of dying colonies revealed a large number of disease organisms
present, with no one disease being identified as the culprit, vanEngelsdorp explains. Ongoing case studies and
surveys of beekeeper's experiencing CCD have found a few common management factors, but no common environmental
agents or chemicals have been identified.
The beekeeping industry has been quick to respond to the crisis. The National Honey
Board has pledged $13,000 of emergency funding to the CCD working group. Other organizations, such as the Florida
State Beekeeper's Association, are working with their membership to commit additional funds.
This latest loss of colonies could seriously affect the production of several
important crops that rely on pollination services provided by commercial beekeeper's.
"For instance, the state's $45 million apple crop -- the fourth largest in the
country -- is completely dependent on insects for pollination, and 90 percent of that pollination comes from honey
bees," Frazier says. "So the value of honey bee pollination to apples is about $40 million."
In total, honey bee pollination contributes about $55 million to the value of crops
in the state. Besides apples, crops that depend at least in part on honey bee pollination include peaches,
soybeans, pears, pumpkins, cucumbers, cherries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries.
Frazier says to cope with a potential shortage of pollination services, growers
should plan well ahead. "If growers have an existing contract or relationship with a beekeeper, they should contact
that beekeeper as soon as possible to ascertain if the colonies they are counting on will be available," she
advises. "If growers do not have an existing arrangement with a beekeeper but are counting on the availability of
honey bees in spring, they should not delay but make contact with a beekeeper and arrange for pollination services
"However, beekeeper's overwintering in the north many not know the status of their
colonies until they are able to make early spring inspections," she adds. "This should occur in late February or
early March but is dependent on weather conditions. Regardless, there is little doubt that honey bees are going to
be in short supply this spring and possibly into the summer."
A detailed, up-to-date report on Colony Collapse Disorder can be found on the
Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium Web site at http://maarec.org.
Honeybees die at alarming rates and are hurting
the food crop. There are unknown diseases that are killing honeybees.
Penn State/College Of Agricultural
Sciences. "Honey Bee Die-off Alarms Beekeeper's, Crop Growers And Researchers." ScienceDaily 23 April
2007. 18 August 2008.