We are at a critical crossroads in regards to the planet’s bee health and population declines. After reading this article you will know more about Colony Collapse Disorder and what you can do to help.
What is Colony Collapse Disorder?
Per Wikepedia: “Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.”
Basically, the Queen is intact, but the active worker bees are not returning to maintain the hive. CCD is different than complete hive abandonment (Queen included). However, the end results are the same- the colony ceases to survive to function correctly.
The website Beeinformed.org tracks scientific reports each year on bee population. This chart highlights the recent issues:
Figure 1: Summary of the total colony losses overwinter (October 1 – April 1) and over the year (April 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each of the nine years of the survey. Winter and Annual losses are calculated based on different respondent pools.
Theories – May Cause a Colony to Collapse?
- Varroe Mites, Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), funguses
- General weather pattern changes and extremes in weather that would stop bees from foraging as normal
- “Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV): This virus, first discovered by Israeli scientists in 2002, causes trembling, paralysis and death in bees.
- The mites deprive bees of nutrition, as well as open the door for other pathogens to enter. Varroa mites, as well as other nasty mites, pathogens and fungi, can invade a hive and give the bees a run for their money. ” 
- Food stresses caused by drought or heavy rain
- Neonicotinoid pesticides: These pesticides — including clothianidin — are neurotoxins used to protect crops against pests. But, these chemicals may also be harming helpful pollinators. The EPA has noted clothianidin as highly toxic to honeybees, and many beekeepers in Germany are blaming it for the massive die-off rates that struck their colonies in May 2008. 
- Bee Stress- traveling stressors, overworking bees
- Antibiotic use
- Supplementing with high fructose corn syrup or unnatural food sources
- Any other chemicals used in our environment- pesticides, herbicides, insecticides
- General air pollution
At this point, mainstream sources cannot attribute the CCD to any one factor, however, a correlation between chemicals and man-made causes may prove to be a driving factor. What manmade impacts have we created? We must look at those causes for CCD. Pinpointing the cause(s) means we can work on a solution.
If we are blind to the fact that we are intrinsically linked we are going to ruin our environment even quicker.
Global warming can occur in normal patterns in nature, but humans ramp up it’s effects with our pollution. The same concept can apply to CCD. Reports of CCD run back as far as 1869. However, there has been an increase in CCD 
The use of pesticides in farming has increased by 404 million pounds from 1996 to 2011!  The use of these crops that are genetically engineered to be “ready” to be sprayed with chemicals has caused super weeds to form, resistant to these chemicals. Note: GMO “chemical ready” seeds were introduced circa 1996.
Which means? More chemicals (of different varieties due to the need to find a way to kill the super weeds) are being sprayed. If it seems confusing let me simplify it: GMO Crops= More chemicals being used. “Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,” Benbrook said” 
By February 2007, large commercial migratory beekeepers in several states had reported heavy losses associated with CCD. Their reports of losses varied widely, ranging from 30% to 90% of their bee colonies… 
Even the USDA found, “Bees in CCD colonies had higher pathogen loads and were co-infected with more pathogens than control populations, suggesting either greater pathogen exposure or reduced defenses in CCD bees.”
This Science Direct article abstract briefs on the causes of bee colony collapse. ‘The authors, independent scientists from around the world, compiled information on how two key factors in bee decline—disease and pesticides—are interconnected.’ 
“Immune suppression of the natural defences by neonicotinoid and phenyl-pyrazole (fipronil) insecticides opens the way to parasite infections and viral diseases, fostering their spread among individuals and among bee colonies at higher rates than under conditions of no exposure to such insecticides.” 
Whether chemicals are the cause (direct or indirect); if they are involved– the blame can be placed on the people and companies that use them.
For example, drinking soda may not directly kill me; however, the indirect effect of excess sugar consumption, weight gain, and the chemical cocktail could lead me to develop diabetes, kidney, or heart disease. Those health issues could kill me one day indirectly. for this reason, I rarely drink soda!
To help the environment- we don’t spray chemicals on our plants or lawn.
The chemicals affect the bee health (more susceptible to disease or insect attacks) and cultural practices (aka not leaving the hive), opening them up to greater harm from ‘natural’ diseases that would occur or ‘natural’ insect infestations. Normally populations could recover from these natural causes, but these man-made chemicals are far from normal in nature.
The biodiversity of our planet’s food sources and upwards of 1/3 of all our fruits and vegetables are pollinated by bees!
There is a huge list of species that need bees to pollinate them, including avocados, peaches, apples, cashews, cucumbers, broccoli, lemons and coffee. 
DO NOT mess with my coffee- mommy needs it to survive and the bees need OUR HELP to survive.
Awareness is the First Step to Change
DID YOU KNOW: Pollinators are necessary for the reproduction of nearly 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants, including about three-quarters of crop species. Bees especially are important for the pollination of most of our crop plants. 
- Directly, honey bees pollinate the flowers of 1/3 of all fruits and vegetables. 
- Indirectly, honey bees pollinate 70% of the food crops, through seed production, etc. 
- In just the last ten years, over 40% of the bee colonies in the US have suffered Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). 
- Catastrophic loss of honeybees could have significant impact, therefore; it is estimated that seven out of the 60 major agricultural crops in North American economy would be lost. 
Bees are critical for the continuing biodiversity of species on our planet, we MUST save them!
Image courtesy of: Bring Back the Bees via www.greatsunflower.org
A recent analysis by the Xerces Society for example, found that nearly 30% of North America’s bumble bee species may now be at risk of extinction! 
John and Oxana- John is President of Operation Honey Bee
My husband grew up with with John Baxter, the founder of Operation Honey Bee. They spent their summers playing outside and doing what boys do best- getting dirty and playing. John’s passion for saving the honey bee is evident in his beliefs about the honey bee decline; mainly the causes and what we need to do to change the tide of population decline and hive abandonment.
Per this How Colony Collapse Disorder Works article by Jessika Toothman: “Bees by the billions are heading out for a busy day of gathering nectar and spreading pollen, but mysteriously aren’t returning to the hive. Between September 2007 and March 2008, U.S. losses were estimated at about 36 percent of managed hives.” 
According to our friend John, bee colony abandonment is causally linked to GMO’s and chemicals in his observations and research:
“The bee may take pollen from a plant that has been contaminated [by chemicals] and quickly realizes it has been contaminated, it goes off alone and does not return to the hive.
Organic bee farming is what it takes for the bees to thrive.” – John Baxter President and Founder of Operation Honey Bee
John’s main method for sustainable and organic bee keeping includes:
- Distilled Water
- Organic and non-GMO feed
- Boxes that do not use wood that is preserved or painted on the box that doesn’t leach into the wood (since the bees reproduce in this box)
- Do not take too much of the bee honey supply and substitute with processed sugar
This method increases the health of the bee in general. The average bee life is 45 days, if you shave off even a few days, it can throw off the entire population and have adverse affects.
Bees are very smart in keeping their colony healthy. If a bee becomes contaminated, the bee itself will not go back to the hive. Air born contamination on a micro level, will only leave questions to where the bees have gone and why they are not in their box.”
We commend John for his work in representing our precious bees with Operation Honey Bee! He truly cares about their immune systems and overall health. He likens it to taking care of our own bodies- avoiding processed foods and eating pure foods free of GMO’s and toxins.
He currently takes care of 3 hives using these organic practices. He even donated a hive to another who lost one due to theft. He saw their story on Fox Carolina and contacted the owners of the stolen hive.
Since Genbumom is for ACTION and what we can do to help- below is a list of ideas.
You can also urge your State Senators to vote IN FAVOR of GMO (genetically modified organisms) labeling laws and to reduce the amount of chemicals being sprayed on our food sources, which harms our local wildlife. Why are other developed nations banning GMO crops ? Germany, France, Mexico, and Australia ban GMO’s to name a few… I urge you to research the reasons why GMO’s are so bad for our earth and our human and wildlife health.
What Can I Do to Help?
I do not have plans any time soon for becoming a beekeeper, perhaps one day, but it’s not conducive to our lifestyle right now. So what can our family do to help?
Buy Local – Support your local honey cultivators and farmers. One stressor on bees may be travel, by supporting local farms and fruit/veggie producers you help reduce the stress to the bees.
“The total number of managed honey bee colonies has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to only 2.5 million today. At the same time, the call for hives to provide pollination services has continued to increase. This means honey bee colonies are being transported over longer distances than ever before.” 
Do NOT Spray with Pesticides/Insecticides. Encourage your neighbors to do the same. If we want to play out back or have company over, we will mow the clovers that the bees love so we can play freely. The clovers grow back within the week and the bees return. In the meantime, our bees are happy because we plant bee friendly flowers and plants.
You don’t want your children or pets around these chemicals, neither do we want the bees (and butterflies) exposed!
Plant Pollinator Attracting Plants: To find your local, native pollinator plants click here. This is an easy-to-follow list from the University of MD for all zones in the US. It details what wildlife they attract and if easy to grow or not. (Key to a gardening novice like myself!)
“Want an easy, relaxing way to help save bee populations? The Great Sunflower Project studies population trends by gathering data about geographic areas where bees are struggling.
Interested bee enthusiasts can register at the project’s Web site and receive free sunflower seeds that arrive in the mail.” 
This is a good beginner article from www.gardening.com on attracting bees. You want two aspects covered when planting for pollinators.
Even herbs like basil, rosemary, and lavender will attract bees. Most herbs grow well in containers if you have limited space in your yard.
Companion Plant in your garden to help reduce unwanted bugs, like Aphids, instead of spraying chemicals. Aphids dislike mint, garlic, onions, and chives. Plant these items around the garden veggies that aphids like best, like tomatoes or lettuces.
Make a Donation! You can buy an Operation Honey Bee T-shirt or donate to Operation Honey Bee– This is a 501c3 nonprofit site dedicated to saving the bees! Donate here!
Consumer Dollars-Buy Products from Companies that Support the Bees. I noticed this information on my Cascadian Farms cereal box one day and I will continue to buy from them not only because their cereal is delicious but because they support bee health and organic practices.
Cascadian Farms Bee Support
Involve Your Children Explain to them why we plant flowers and how crops are pollinated. Teach them why chemicals are bad for our earth. Get their daycare or school involved in spring seed planting activities.
Any other ideas to help the bees-Feel free to share in the comments section. Also share this link to your social media!
- Francisco Sánchez-Bayoa, , ,
- Dave Goulsonb, ,
- Francesco Pennacchioc, ,
- Francesco Nazzid, ,
- Koichi Gokae, ,
- Nicolas Desneuxf,
Are Bee Diseases linked to pesticides? – A brief review. January 9, 2016. www.Science Direct.com.
4. Code, Aimee Pesticide Program Director. Research Update: Are Bee Diseases Linked to Pesticides? February 16, 2016. www.xerces.org http://www.xerces.org/blog/research-update-are-bee-diseases-linked-to-pesticides/
5. USDA Website: www.ars.usda.gov
6. Toothman, Jesskika. How Colony Collapse Disorder Works. www.howstuffworks.com Accessed
8. By: Christina Sarich, Natural Society. August 15, 2013. List of Food We Will Lose if we Don’t Save the Bees. www.honelove.org
9. Wikepedia. Colony Collapse Disorder. Accessed March 2016. www.wikepedia.org
10. Gilliam, Carey. Genetically Modified Crops have Lead to Increased Pesticide use, Study finds. www.huffingtonpost.com