Can you imagine a world without bees? Entomologists are studying the reasons behind an enormous bee die off. They call it Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and if they cannot find a solution the 80% of fruits and vegetables that require pollination may not make it to market. Places bees can forage for pollen without being poisoned by pesticides have dramatically declined, and the cause of CCD appears to be related to diseases from pesticides, but no one is certain.
The European honey bee can be found in a number of locations including: Africa, Asia, Australia, China, Europe, North America, Russia, South America, United Kingdom, Wales. Native to Asia and the Middle East the European honey bee was introduced to North America 400 years ago by colonists at Jamestown and Williamsburg. The European honey bee is a social insect that can survive only as a member of a community, or colony.
The common name for solitary bees native to the northern hemisphere is Mason Bee. Mason Bees are solitary bees that build part or all of their nests with mud or plant fiber chewed into a paste. About 140 species of Mason Bees are found in North America out of about 200 species worldwide. The United States and Canada are home to at least 4,500 species of native bee and along with The European honey bee all are at risk.
Two species of parasitic mite infested North American honeybees in the 1980’s. Meanwhile, industrialized agricultural practices overtook former practices, and places bees could forage for pollen without being poisoned by pesticides decreased dramatically. In 2006 attention focused on a decline in European honey bee colonies in regions of North America and parts and European continents. Since then honey bees have declined within other parts of Europe, including the UK, Germany, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland, and parts of North America and Japan.
Total losses from managed honey bee colonies in the United States were 30 percent from all causes for the 2010/2011 winter, according to the annual survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA). This is roughly similar to total losses reported in similar surveys done in the four previous years: 34 percent for the 2009/2010 winter, 29 percent for 2008/2009; 36 percent for 2007/2008, and 32 percent for 2006/2007. A complete analysis of the survey data will be published later this year. The abstract can be found here. See also Pacific Northwest Honey Bee Pollination Economics Survey 2010 PDF
There is not yet any clear explanation for why the honey bees are dying in such large numbers. It appears that their immune systems are compromised. There have been many theories about the cause of CCD, but the EPA researcherswho are leading the effort to find out why are now focused on these factors:
- increased losses due to the invasive varroa mite (a pest of honeybees);
- new or emerging diseases such as Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema;
- pesticide poisoning through exposure to pesticides applied to crops or for in-hive insect or mite control;
- bee management stress;
- foraging habitat modification
- inadequate forage/poor nutrition and
- potential immune-suppressing stress on bees caused by one or a combination of factors identified above.
A new paper from Daniel Favre, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, provided more ammo to the argument that mobile phone signals are contributing to the decline of honeybees. Do cell phones kill honeybees? The short answer is no, there’s no reliable evidence that cell phone activity causes bees to die, according to renowned entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. EarthSky
- Honeybee Air Monitoring Comes to Berlin’s New Airport (treehugger.com)