Industrial Agriculture, Commercial Bee Hives and Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

Bees and their pollinating skills are said to facilitate the production of more than $15 billion in U.S. crops. Bee colony collapse disorder, a disease of unknown origin and pathology, is causing the death or disappearance of millions of honeybees, leaving researchers scrambling to find the cause.

| October/November 2008

Are there ties between industrial agriculture, commercial bee hives and bee colony collapse disorder?

Industrial Agriculture, Commercial Bee Hives and Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

The future of America’s food supply relies on a species that’s under stress. Beginning in the winter of 2006, millions of honeybees started dying or vanishing. A strange epidemic, colony collapse disorder (CCD), is wiping out these vital pollinators and causing concerns for the fate of our food supply.

Chip Taylor, professor of insect ecology at the University of Kansas, and other experts say multiple forces are responsible for colony collapse disorder, including weakened immunity, pesticides, parasites and poor nutrition. Some research implicates a virus known as Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. The good news is that the disorder does not appear to be as severe in backyard beehives, which are not stressed in the same way commercial hives are. The industrial agriculture system ships bee colonies around the country to serve various monocrops and growing seasons, which stresses the bees.

Because the tiny workhorses are responsible for pollinating one-third of U.S. crop species, honeybees account for many of the fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fibers produced in the United States, with the value of their services exceeding $15 billion.

Silence of the Bees, a PBS Nature series episode, reveals the agricultural role of these amazing six-legged creatures. The episode also includes an interview with expert Dennis van Engelsdorp.

Because 71 percent of all colony deaths can be attributed to non-CCD causes, according to van Engelsdorp,  the stinging issue is general pollinator health. “The effort to look at the impacts of pesticides has revealed a surprisingly large number of pesticides in pollen, wax and the bees themselves; some of these at high levels,” van Engelsdorp says. “These pesticides are used in agriculture and sometimes by the beekeepers themselves. We have initiated investigations into the effects of pesticides, potential synergistic effects of multiple pesticides, the impact of pesticides in combination with other stress factors, as well as the use of irradiation to mitigate pesticide residues.”

11/20/2008 5:48:57 PM

I was enlightened by your bee colony article and would like to add a comment. Last Summer my son Andy was sitting out on our patio with his lap top and he noticed that while he was engaged in using his computor there were masses of bees (we have alot of flora in our landscape) flying in a disoriented manner. Could it be that our current electronic age may be interferring with homing instincts in colonies...just curious? We as citzens of the world need to wake up and protect the bee population...when the bees are extinct...we are extinct......TWalker

Karen Wassmer
11/18/2008 2:21:11 PM

I am a beekeeper in Florida and I have found a way to help save the honeybees from dying off because of Varroa Mites. Here is one new article wrote about my invention and a link to my website for more detail information on how I am saving the bees. Sincerely, Karen Wassmer

Bee Babe of Mathews County, Va
10/9/2008 8:08:37 AM

I am so glad to find this site and be able to communicate with other beekeepers. I have been keeping bees for 5 years in the most natural way possible. I lost my first two hives when I placed them under the pines on my property. The next year I placed them in the deciduous tree line of our property, where they got shade in the summer and sun in the winter, and they have thrived. I furnish them fresh water and dry, clean conditions. I have 4 healthy hives, and get calls when anyone in the county is bothered with a swarm which I usually catch. A few years ago I painted my hives different, green, yellow and pink. 3 of the hives are really sweet...the only mean one is the pink hive. My husband says they are mad because I painted them pink! Ha! They do make the most honey though....I sell my honey as fast as I can extract it. My favorite thing is to sit really still and close and watch the activity of my beautiful bees. Really nice to meet ya'll....keep in touch.

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