What is in this article?:
- Honing in on bee colony collapse disorder
- Nosema moves down the list
- Nearly 30 percent of all honey bees literally disappeared last winter, fleeing their hives never to return. Researchers have studied colony collapse disorder since it was identified in 2006. They are now uncovering answers to this problem.
- A combination of factors contribute to colony collapse disorder, or CCD, including pesticide exposure, environmental and nutritional stresses, new or reemerging pathogens and a virus that targets the bees' immune systems, said Keith Delaplane, an entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Nosema moves down the list
Nosema spores were once believed to be a major contributor of CCD. New lab results suggest they aren’t.
“When it comes to nosema disease, our experience is much less severe than what they’ve seen in Europe. This helps us prioritize,” Delaplane said. “We are focusing more on varroa mites and viruses and less on nosema.”
Nosema is easily treated by protein supplements or healthy amounts of pollen, which neutralize its effects.
“One of our biggest frustrations has been defusing the expectation for ‘a cure’ for CCD. The answer, when it comes, will be a knowledge-based enterprise, not a product-based enterprise. The answer will be messy,” Delaplane said.
The answer will included management decisions like lower-density apiaries, integrated pest management adoption, selective breeding programs, as well as new technologies like RNAi and marker-assisted breeding, he said.
“Nothing about this is easy,” he said. “Bee decline is a systemic problem on a continental scale. But you know what, we’ve shortened the list, made important discoveries in toxicology and disease and are coming up with practical answers in disease remediation and genetic resistance. Not bad for two years work.”
Honey bees pollinate about a third of the nation’s food supply and add $15 billion annually to U.S. crops. They pollinate 130 different fruits, vegetables and nuts. While there are other bee pollinators, honey bees are the most prolific and easiest to manage for agricultural pollination. In California, the almond crop alone needs 1.3 million bee colonies, about half of all honey bees in the country.
To find out more about CCD and what Delaplane and his team are doing about it, visit http://www.extension.org/pages/Bee_Health_Community_Page.