4 Reasons the Bees are Disappearing

Monday Sep 24 | BY |
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They’re necessary to our food supply, and they’re dying. Why?

It started in about 2006, when beekeepers would go out to their hives and find the honeybees had vanished. What was especially odd was there was no trace of them. No dead bees, no evidence of bee diseases, and no evidence of the usual predators.

The bees were just gone.

Since then, scientists have come up with a name for the phenomenon: Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. In 2007, beekeepers lost 32 percent of their colonies, with numbers reflecting about the same every year since. What exactly is causing the issue is still not entirely clear, but after years of research, scientists have some theories.

Why Does it Matter?
Aside from any concern about the bees themselves, why should we worry about CCD? Scientists are especially concerned because the honeybee is critical to the human food chain. They are the main pollinator for hundreds of food crops, nuts, flowers, vegetables, and fruits. Without bees to pollinate these plants, we could be looking at widespread starvation, literally. About 130 crops in California alone rely on honeybees to thrive.

“One in every three bites of food you eat comes from a plant,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp of Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, “or depends on a plant, that was pollinated by an insect, most likely a bee.”

Why is this happening? Here are some of the theories.

1. Chemicals and Pesticides
This seems to be the prevailing theory in many circles today. We use many more pesticides in farming then we used to decades ago, and honeybees ingest these chemicals as they make their rounds from plant to plant. Commercial beehives are also subjected to chemicals that help fumigate their hives to kills off destructive mites.

Some researchers believe that we’ve reached a “tipping point” in our use of chemicals, pushing the bees to a breaking point as they suffer from the buildup of both synthetic chemicals and even genetically modified crop pollen. Organic bee colonies, on the other hand, where chemicals and genetically modified crops are avoided, are not suffering from the same catastrophic collapses.

A recent study lent some credence to this theory. Published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science & Technology journal, the study reported a correlation between CCD and the insecticides used to coat corn seeds. So-called “neonicotinoid insecticides” are some of the most widely used in the world, because they kill insects but have low toxicity for other animals.

Beekeepers noticed honeybees were dying around the time of corn planting when these coated corn seeds were used.

Other researchers speculate it’s not any one pesticide, but a combination of many. Christopher Mullin of Penn Statye took samples from beekeepers across 23 states, and found a wide variety of pesticides and other chemicals in the hives. No one particular pesticide, however, was strong enough to be lethal.

The Agricultural Research Service (run by the USDA) reports that so far, the question of pesticides and chemicals has still not been answered. In 2008, for example, Germany revoked the registration of the neonicotinoid insecticides for use on seed corn after an incident resulted in the die-off of hundreds of nearby honeybee colonies. They found that in fact, the die-off was caused by a combination of factors, including weather conditions, the type of equipment used to sow the seeds, the failure to use a seed coating known as a “sticker,” and more.

2. Environmental Stressors
Another theory behind CCD is that stressors like the lack of diverse nectar/pollen, limited access to clean water, and limited access to real nutrition are contributing to bee mortality. Beekeepers fill up huge trucks and crisscross the country seeking pollination work, which can subject bees to an unhealthy diet made up of artificial supplements. Bees can also be overcrowded and experience stress from the traveling itself.

The spread of suburbs has also reduced the natural forage areas of bees, forcing them into cities where they may be drinking contaminated water and eating less-than-optimal nectar. Like humans, bees can suffer from compromised immune systems when they’re unable to eat a healthy diet and avoid stress.

3. Disease
This is one of the most promising theories in determining the cause of CCD. Scientists are considering “nosema,” which is a gut fungus, as well as the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, and possibly other pathogens as possible culprits. Varroa mites are also found in honeybee colonies that are affected by CCD, but it’s unclear so far whether they are directly involved in causing bee mortality.

Some research has shown that there are many pathogens affecting bees that scientists previously knew nothing about, so this is an area of continuing research. There is also a theory that global warming could be contributing to rising growth rates of mites, viruses, and fungi that can harm bee colonies.

4. Radiation
Are bees sensitive to electromagnetic radiation coming from wireless communication towers? Some speculate that the increased radiation given off by these devices could interfere with the bees’ ability to navigate. A small study at Germany’s Landau University found that bees wouldn’t go home to their hives when mobile phones were placed nearby. Again, this is another area that requires more research, as scientists just don’t know how radiation may affect bees.

Where Are We Now?
Despite the concerns, scientists still have been unable to find a smoking gun when it comes to what’s causing CCD. The general overriding theory today is that it’s not one cause, but “the perfect storm” of issues that are threatening our bee populations.

“We obviously think it’s more complicated than we first believed,” said Jeff Pettis, Research Leader at the USDA Bee lab, “as in we don’t believe that we’re looking for a single virulent pathogen, although that can’t totally be ruled out. At first we were thinking that we’d find a single causative agent, a virulent pathogen sweeping through the bee population, and that doesn’t appear to be the case.”

According to the Agricultural Research Service, “One explanation for CCD being studied is that a perfect storm of environmental stresses may unexpectedly weaken colonies, leading to a collapse when the colonies are exposed to the additional stress of a pathogen, parasite, and/or pesticide.”

What do you think is causing CCD?

* * *

Ned Potter, “Honeybees Dying: Scientists Wonder Why and Worry about Food Supply,” ABC News, March 25, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/honey-bees-dying-scientists-suspect-pesticides-disease-worry/story?id=10191391#.UEzqfHbCMYZ.

James Williams, “Honey Bees Disappearing: Still a Problem,” Discovery News, March 18, 2010, http://news.discovery.com/animals/honey-bees-disappearing-still-a-problem.html.

Victor Johnson, “Honey Bees Dying from Corn Insecticides,” The Inquisitr, March 16, 2012, http://www.inquisitr.com/206612/honey-bees-dying-from-corn-insecticides/.

United States Department of Agriculture, “Honey Bees Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD),” Agricultural Research Service, http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Emma says:

    I watched a documentary about this. They also kill and replace the queen every two years without understanding the dynamic of the hive. They also ship bees all over the country and expect the bees to orient themselves for all of the seasons. These little creatures are not fed well or treated in their native fashion.
    Smaller bee farmers where these factors along with your article’s list are not a factor, for small colonies do not seem to have the same affliction.,

  2. P Gupta says:

    Bees are vanishing everywhere. The only posible explanation is related to the most recent GMO publication which I think offers the best posible explanation.


  3. Mirella says:

    What is intriguing about the disappearance of bees is that they just disappear. They are there one moment and then poof gone. No evidence of dead or sick bees. Where did they go? We are talking about masses of bees. Did they just all spontaneously combust, enter a parallel universe or were they abducted by aliens? What are the theories on where they go? I have just recently placed bees on my property – the honey is used to raise money to help poor villages in India so I am watching them carefully.

  4. Jack says:

    We are in the age of aquarius.In the age of aquaries the magnetic fields change from the east to the west.When migrating things bees birds etc.are out of there home and the field changes they get lost.They cant find where they are going.

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