Environmental Education

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Mar 11

[ARCHIVED] Colony Collapse Disorder (Bee Info Series - Part IV of V)

The original item was published from March 11, 2016 1:35 PM to March 11, 2016 3:55 PM

Bee Info Series 3One of the biggest challenges to face beekeepers in the last decade has been Colony Collapse Disorder. The most recent spike in this syndrome began to be noticed in late 2006. North American beekeepers experienced a dramatic loss of western honeybee colonies. Losses reported by commercial beekeepers by early 2007 ranged from 30% to 90% of their colonies.

The causes of Colony Collapse disorder are not known. Researchers believe a variety of factors may contribute to the disorder. The most commonly suspected factors are: pesticides and fungicides, including a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, pathogens such as mites, viruses and fungi, stresses due to trucking colonies frequently over long distances, and malnutrition. Studies have shown that the factors listed above have all been present, sometimes singly but often together in colonies that have succumbed to collapse.

In Washington State, the state legislature recently directed the Washington State Department of Agriculture to convene a work group to report on the challenges facing honey bees in Washington. The work group's report was released in December 2014.
The key recommendations issued in the report fall into three categories:
  • Honey bee health and habitat 
  • Data, resources and awareness 
  • Registration and taxation
Research published in 2009 by Dhruba Naug of Colorado State University showed a strong correlation between lack of quality habitat and the severity of colony collapse disorder in the U.S. Improvement of habitat and forage, therefore, appears to be a step in the right direction to reduce the impact of colony collapse disorder.

Additionally, more research is needed to understand the causes of the disorder. To that end, the work group recommended expansion of the Apiary program at Washington State University. This includes funding a full time WSU extension/research-apiarist position as well as a full time WSU extension pollination ecologist. Furthermore, as research is limited by existing facilities, a new bee lab is recommended.

Many of the recommendations from the work group will require new funding. Please consider the public good honey bees provide and support legislation that seeks to improve honey bee health. Honey bees make it possible for us to grow the healthy, delicious fruits that enhance our lives and play such a large part in the state's agricultural sector.

Explore the Other Parts of the Bee Info Series Here:

The Bee Info Series was produced by the Washington Ag Forestry Class 37. Several of the members of this class authored the articles as part of a public policy project. If you want to learn more about the Ag Forestry program visit their website: http://agforestry.org/