Colony Collapse Disorder of Honeybees
In this section of Seattle Organic Restaurants I'm going to talk about Colony Collapse Disorder of honeybees. It was around 2006 that many scientists, environmentalists and researchers noticed that honey bees were disappearing. The phenomenon of bees’ disappearance is called “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD) and the rate for CCD has been accelerating in the last few years.
Honey bees do provide a great value for farmers and pollinating crops. Producing honey isn’t the only thing labor bees do; they are also the main pollinators of one thirds of fruits, vegetables and nuts that we eat. However the research is still going on to find out what’s causing bees’ disappearance and many research and studies conducted so far point to the following factors:
Malnutrition:Bees are suffering from malnutrition. Wild bees enjoy the diversity of flowers with different nectar and pollen. Reduction in plant diversity as well as reduction in wild flowers due to constant increase of land usage for agricultural purposes have resulted in bees being unable to have access to a wide range of flowers and plants as food source and therefore are suffering from malnutrition and immune system disorder. Damage to bees’ immune system would unable bees to fight against diseases, viruses and pests.
Use of Pesticides & HerbicidesExtensive use of pesticides and herbicides in agricultural practices has resulted in bees’ Colony Collapse Disorder. For example imidacloprid and nicotine-based pesticides have been known to cause CCD symptoms. In a study by Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health a group of bees were exposed to different levels of “imidacloprid” and after 32 weeks the bees exposed to higher levels of imidacloprid showed higher symptoms of CCD.
GMO Crops and High Fructose Corn SyrupAlthough researchers do not necessary agree that GM crops directly could cause CCD, they do believe that feeding commercial bees with high fructose corn syrup could result in CCD symptoms. As explained in the same study by Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health 94% of bees were dead due to exposure to imidacloprid. Most of HFCS comes from GM corn crops and they all have been treated with imidacloprid and other pesticides that have been related to CCD symptoms. That’s why France has banned the use of imidacloprid on corn and sunflower after the death of more than one thirds of bees.
However use of imidacloprid was never legally approved by Environmental Protection Agency, still up to today imidacloprid is used in America as one of the main pesticides in GM agriculture; Maybe FDA knows why? Although raw honey is anti-inflammatory and great for treating allergies, flues, rhinitis and asthma, the reality is that 75% of honey you see in grocery stores are HFCS with no nutritional value.
Colony Stress due to MigrationMost of the money beekeepers make isn’t made just by selling their honey but by renting their hives to farmer and make profit on their pollination services. The friendly policies of agribusiness and its ONLY priority to make money by increasing corporate profit hasn’t left any other plants for honeybees, the beehives are stacked in back of a truck travelling thousands of miles across the country for month for pollination purposes. Being relocated every few month could be very stressful for honeybees, spread diseases, viruses and pathogens across the country which could lead to CCD symptoms. In fact some of the beekeepers have already lost more than 90% of their colonies due to migration.
Environmental PollutionBeing exposed to pollution and environmental toxins can be a threat to honeybees’ life. Foraging bees can drink or inhale water runoffs that are contaminated by industrial or household chemicals. Being exposed to these environmental toxins and pollution could lead to CCD symptoms.
Numerous Pathogens and ParasitesTwo published articles this year point out that honeybees are affected by parasites and pathogens known as honeybee’s pests. For example beekeepers are truly scared of varroa mites that do transmit viruses including direct damage as parasite. These multiple unknown pathogen and parasites can cause Colony Collapse Disorder. Researchers have discovered several bee viruses including Sacbroodvirus (SBV), Cloudy Wing Virus (CWV), Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV) and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV). However among many other pathogens IAPV is one of the main viruses that have caused CCD. These viruses are rapidly changing in US and IAPV virus was found in 19 different states.
Loss of Genetic DiversityThe diversity of plants and flowers are declining as well as the diversity of bees and other insects. Most of queen bees or even honeybees have lost their genetic diversity and the limited genetic have results in lower immune system and being more effected by disease and pests.
Electromagnetic RadiationDid you know that your cell phone’s electromagnetic radiation can result in CCD symptoms in honeybees? In a study in India the researchers put two cell phones in two beehives and the cell phones were turned on for 30 M only twice a week for 3 month. The study showed that the number of bees returning to hives that were exposed to cell phone radiation reduced drastically and finally after 3 month there was no life and there was no honey. So if cells phone are related to bees’ disappearance, can you assume what they do to our health? Using cell phones constantly have been related to brain tumor in human beings. Swedish researchers also suggest that electromagnetic from cell phone kill the brain cells.
Beekeeping practices could be one of the reasons resulting CCD. Extensive use of herbicides, pesticides and fungicide close to beehives can result in disease and parasite in honeybees. Also modern practices of beekeepers can put a lot of stress on honeybees causing lower immune system and susceptibility to diseases. Honeybees are supposed to be fed from nectars and pollens and any other practices like feeding honeybees from HFCS, white sugar, and artificial syrups doesn’t provide any nutritional value for the bees but harm to them and those that consume their honey. Also migration of beekeeper can potentially put a lot of stress on bees and result in CCD.
Global WarmingThe global warming and climate change may have resulted in bees’ disappearance these last few years. In places that get warmer than usual flowers blossom earlier when bees can’t fly and there aren’t enough flowers opened in places that are colder than usual. The climate change has resulted in limited pollen and nectar supplies. But of course if you don’t believe in global warming you could always refer to Sara Palin’s famous quote that global warming is just God hugging us closer.
What will happen if bees disappear?
Well the same God of Palin helps us all. 87% of plants are pollinated by bees and if we fail to fix our malfunction agricultural and environmental practices many plants would fail to be pollinated and will die and start a chain reaction among all of the species on earth. One thirds of these plants are the main source of our diet. The scientific community and biologists suggest that if honeybees disappear we will only have few more years to live since a chain reaction will start to eradicate certain species due to lack of pollination and will effects crops and birds and so forth.