There have been die-offs of honey bee colonies periodically reported for many years. The most severe of all such events in the United States started in the fall of 2006 when migratory beekeepers discovered large numbers of their hives mysteriously depleted of honey bees. By the spring of 2007, similar massive losses of honey bees were being detected in numerous locations across the country. As the losses of honey bee colonies rapidly increased, it became apparent that this die-off of honey bees involved certain characteristics that were not common with previously known honey bee diseases. The condition was given the name Colony Collapse Disorder, and a number of carefully planned studies were initiated to identify the causes of the disappearance of the honey bees. While beekeepers were experiencing costly losses of their colonies, many realized that a quick resolution of the problem was not likely. With many hive variables, it would take time to analyze the condition of hives across the country. Different hives are used for different purposes; they are exposed to a variety of pests and parasites; they have different nutritional resources; they are exposed to a wide variety of environmental chemicals inside and outside the hive; and they are managed differently by individual beekeepers.
Over the past four years, preliminary findings eliminated a number of possible causes of CCD and placed others into focus. Now, a report of the likely cause of CCD has been published. News of the report can be read in today’s New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/science/07bees.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage. The researchers found that when a particular honey bee virus is paired with Nosema disease, the combination is almost always lethal. The full report, “Iridovirus and Microsporidian Linked to Honey Bee Colony Decline,” has been published online, and may be viewed at http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0013181. Peace Bee Farm has been involved in collecting bee and hive samples for several of the CCD studies. NPR of the Mid-South news director Candice Ludlow interviews me during a recent sampling.