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Volume 38, No. 2

Food Supply Danger

Searching for Causes of Colony Collapse Disorder

Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. About one mouthful in three in the diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. In California, the almond crop alone uses 1.3 million colonies of bees, approximately one half of all honey bees in the United States, and this need is projected to grow to 1.5 million colonies by 2010.


About one mouthful in three in the diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination.


The number of managed honey bee colonies has dropped from 5 million in the1940s to only 2.5 million today. At the same time, the call for hives to supply pollination service has continued to climb. This means honey bee colonies are trucked farther and more often than ever before.

Honey bee colony health has also been declining since the 1980s with the advent of new pathogens and pests. The spread into the United States of varroa and tracheal mites, in particular, created major new stresses on honey bees.

While CCD has created a very serious problem for beekeepers and could threaten the pollination industry if it becomes more widespread, fortunately there were enough bees to supply all the needed pollination this past spring. But we cannot wait to see if CCD becomes an agricultural crisis to do the needed research into the cause and treatment for CCD.

There are several major possibilities that are being looked into by researchers.

  • Pesticides may be having unexpected negative effects on honey bees.
  • A new parasite or pathogen may be attacking honey bees. One possible candidate being looked at is a pathogenic gut microbe called Nosema. Viruses are also suspected.
  • Stress.  Stress compromises the immune system of bees (and other social insects) and may disrupt their social system, making colonies more susceptible to disease.

The only pathogen found in almost all samples from honey bee colonies with CCD, but not in non-CCD colonies, was the Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), a dicistrovirus that can be transmitted by the varroa mite. It was found in 96.1 percent of the CCD-bee samples.

This research does not identify IAPV as the cause of CCD. What this research found was strictly a strong correlation of the appearance of IAPV and CCD together.

A study published at Plos One analyzed bees and hives for pesticide residues.  They found 121 different pesticides and metabolites within 887 wax, pollen, bee and associated hive samples. Almost 60% of the 259 wax and 350 pollen samples contained at least one systemic pesticide. 

Bee pollen was found to contain chlorothalonil at levels up to 99 ppm and the insecticides aldicarb, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos and imidacloprid, fungicides boscalid, captan and myclobutanil, and herbicide pendimethalin at 1 ppm levels. Almost all comb and foundation wax samples (98%) were contaminated.

The 98 pesticides and metabolites detected in mixtures up to 214 ppm in bee pollen alone represents a remarkably high level for toxicants in the brood and adult food of this primary pollinator.

Sources:

Plos One
USDA

       
 

For informational purposes only - not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor an endorsement by the American Nutrition Association®. Use permitted for non-profit and non-commercial uses or by healthcare professionals in their practice, with attribution to www.AmericanNutritionAssociation.org. Other use only with written ANA℠ permission. Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ANA℠. Works by a listed author subject to copyrights as marked. © 2010 ANA℠