Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Honey Bee Health Studies

It has been three years since the start of the greatest recorded die-off of honey bees in the United States. With annual losses of managed honey bee hives at around 30 percent, there is still no clear, single known cause of this condition, known as CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder. From a long list of possible causes of Colony Collapse Disorder, a shorter list of possible causes has emerged. The first candidate for a CCD cause to be eliminated was electromagnetic energy from cell phone towers. Strong candidates for possible causes still remain: colony stress resulting from nutritional problems, transportation of hives for pollination service, chemical residues from fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, and new or re-emerging bee diseases and pathogens. Researchers have found traces of many chemicals in the beeswax honey comb of hives that collapsed as well as in those that did not. Beeswax readily holds chemicals; and some of the chemicals were introduced into the hives by the beekeepers to control parasitic mites, while some of the chemicals were brought into the hive by the bees as they picked them up while foraging for pollen and nectar.

Peace Bee Farm is participating in long-term studies that are now being conducted to measure the effects of three areas of concern. First, honey bee diseases are being studied, particularly new viruses and fungal diseases. Second, parasitic mites, the great killers of honey bees, are being sampled. The mites are known to vector numerous viruses. Third, pesticides are being sampled from the beeswax honey comb and from bees. Click on the picture to see where I am cutting comb from the brood nest for the pesticide test. Any chemicals present in the beeswax comb here surround the developing honey bee brood. The queen bee, marked in red, is encircled by her retinue of attendant worker bees. For these studies, we are collecting samples of beeswax and bees.

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