Bees - Honey Bee Colony Collapse

Bees Gathering Nectar and Pollinating

Photo courtesy of Wichipedia
Photo courtesy of Wichipedia

Honey Bee Eggs and Larvae

Photo courtesy of Wickipedia
Photo courtesy of Wickipedia

Honeybee Hives

Honey bees pollinate an estimated 1/3 of the human diet and the importance of the honey bee population is reflected in the fact that more has been written about honey bees than any other insect in the world. The human fascination with bees began thousands of years ago when people found out just how good honey tastes.

Honeybees are social insects and even in the wild they create elaborate nests called hives containing up to 20,000 bees. They gather nectar in the appropriate months and during the winter they live off the honey in order to not freeze to death. They see the world through compound eyes that are made up of hundreds of small simple eyes called ommatidia, so they see the world a bit differently. They protect themselves and the hives with a venom gland that creates a stinger at the end of the abdomen only found in females and it hurts!

One Queen Bee per Hive

Hives have only one queen bee and her main purpose is to produce more bees. The queen can lay over 1500 eggs daily and she will live from 2-8 years. The bee begins work the day it is born. The rest of the hive is made up of drones and workers. Drones are males and have no stingers. They live about 8 weeks and their sole purpose is to mate with the queen. Their eyes are larger to spot the queens in flight and any drones left at the end of the season are driven out of the hive to die.

The female worker bees make up the vast majority of the bees, and they do several different jobs as they grow from cleaning, keeping the temperature regulated, and they defend the hive. The older workers (after 3 weeks) are the ones that forage to gather nectar, pollen, water and certain sticky plant resins used for hive construction.

Honey has multiple medical benefits beyond satisfying the palate and I will discuss those in more detail in Honey Bees -Part II. There are also many different types of honey bees and their honey often has some unique characteristics depending of where they have gathered their pollen.


Queen Bee in Hive

source informed farmers
source informed farmers

Pollination

Honeybees are extremely important as pollinators as I stated in the opening paragraphs. As they gather nectar, the pollen sticks to the fuzzy hair covering their bodies and some rubs off on the next flowers they visit. Honey farms will take a truckload of bees to a farm for pollination in the appropriate season, then load up the hives and take them to the next farm that needs pollination. These bees are extremely important to our agricultural community and to us as consumers

The video is well worth watching. It shows how the bees communicate with each other.


NATURE | Silence of the Bees | Inside the Hive | PBS

Bumble Bee Queen

source cyrrusimage.com
source cyrrusimage.com

Colony Collapse Disorder

In late 2006, honeybee colonies started collapsing in the United States and after much scientific study it seems there are a whole set of problems causing what is now called “colony collapse disorder.” This phenomenon causes worker bees to suddenly disappear from a beehive. The number of managed honey bee hive colonies dropped an estimated 31.8% to 35.8% in the winters of 2006/2007 and 2007/2008. And, for 2008/2009 the expected drop is 28.6%. This problem is not limited to the US, as most European countries and even Taiwan have reported this problem.

Honey bees were imported from Australia about this time and they may possibly have had some impact on this collapse. Australian Officials insist their bees are not the problem, but they are facing an invasion of exotic Asian honeybees. Some scientists think the Asian bees might carry different viruses and mites than bees from Europe or the US. The causes are not yet fully understood and apparently very complex. Honey bees are the most valuable pollinators of agricultural crops worldwide.

The monetary value of the honey bee as commercial pollinators in the US is estimated to be $20-$25 billion annually. Loss of honey bees is not uncommon, but it is very unusual for worker bees to leave the hives and fail to return. Some have dubbed this crisis the Mary Celeste syndrome” due to the absence of dead bees in the many empty hives. This is a very serious problem for farmers and consumers.

Looking for Answers

Washington State University completed a study that gives us some answers. First, they noted pesticide levels in older honey combs and found fairly high levels. Pennsylvania State University also found unprecedented high levels of 2 pesticides and lower levels of 70 others as well in an earlier study. Washington State researchers found another probable cause which is the pathogen Nosema ceranae, which entered the US in 1997. It interacts with other chemicals contributing to colony collapse disorder. It has since spread to hives across the country. The pathogen attacks the bee’s ability to process food and makes them more susceptible to other chemicals and infections.

Currently researchers are focusing of three major possibilities of colony collapse:

  • Pesticides have an unexpected negative effect.
  • New parasites (nosema ceranae), pathogens or viruses may be attacking the bees.
  • A combination of these stressors is thought to compromise the immune system of bees making them more susceptible to disease and infection. Stressors include infection by the Varroa mite. Poor nutrition due to apiary overcrowding, pollination of crops with low nutritional value, honey bee pollen or nectar scarcity, exposure to limited or contaminated water supplies and migratory stress may all be factors.

There is more money being poured into research to find and fix the cause of this collapse.

© 2010 Pamela Oglesby

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Comments 45 comments

partisan patriot 6 years ago

Pamela

You have uncovered Barrack Hussein Obama’s model for America. He is making us into social society that will eventually be forced to live in colonies once he effectively destroys the housing market in this country.

He definitely see the world different from any former American President whether his eyes are made up of hundreds of small simple eyes called ommatidia I don’t know but it would serve to explain his weird world view.

He has surrounded himself with venomous people; the most venomous being Rham Emanuel. As for the Queen Bee lasting 2-8 years let’s pray Queen Michelle’s Rein only last 2 more.

We are definitely the worker bees that make up vast majority his Hive while the press takes on the responsibility of defending the hive. The majority of us forage to gather nectar, pollen, water so as to be redistributed to those in the hive too lazy to forage.

He and Michelle enjoy the Honey while the rest of us bees buzz around looking for a few morsels of sustenance.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV

Pamela,

Good information and great hub. I had heard of the bees dissapearing, but not the cause of that dissappeance!!!

Thanks for the information.


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

I first heard about this problem a few years ago. It is amazing how important all creatures are on this planet. Good information and I enjoyed reading your article.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Patirot, I wrote this important news story just for you obviously. Thank you for explaining your take so thoroughly.

Tom, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. I appreciate your your comments.

Coolmon, I agree. Our world is so unique. Thanks for your comments.


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

The honey bee population is crucial and I hope most people become aware of this information. I have bee hives and promote others to do the same. It's very rewarding and I love seeing the bees fly about our flowers and tree blossoms. I've taught my kids about hives and raising bees from the time they were in pre-school. There are many great groups teaching and supporting folks to raise bee's. I live in a suburb or Columbus Ohio, the city if you will and it's allowed. I encourage more people to raise bees. :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Katiem, Thanks so much for your comment. My husband and his uncle had several hives for years when he lived in GA. He just loved working with them and he loves honey! It's great you are teaching your children while they are young.


RevLady profile image

RevLady 6 years ago from Lantana, Florida

Pamela, another hub that clearly reveals the wonder of the natural environment. For even the small honeybee there is a purpose as great and meaningful as the flowers and all affects humanity in one way or another.

God gave nature to man to enjoy but also with the responsibility of being good stewards, lest we suffer the unplesant consequences. All glory to God!

Great, useful and interesting hub!

Forever His,


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Rev Lady, That is what is so marvelous about nature and each thing has a purpose. Thank you for your comments.


eovery profile image

eovery 6 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

I have been hearing about this. Also, I understand wild bees are taking over some too.

Keep on hubbing!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Eovery. You might me talking about the killer bees which aren't the same as the honey bees. Thanks for your comments.


bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

Fifteen years ago, i could not gather vegetables from my spring garden without dodging honey bees. A few years ago, I planted squash and cucumbers and rarely saw a bee. The squash crop was only fair , and the cucumber crop was poor.

I believe it is mostly pesticides in Louisiana, but I can't really say.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

Good morning, Pamela. I hope this is the best day for you and your family. I always learn something new from you. Like this information. Actually when we know well about bee it not really dangerous. We can see this on the Bee's farm. Maybe it controlled everyday, so they not really wild. But for the bee colonies in the forest, I am not guarantee they will not hit us...hahaha. But I give many thanks for you, because showing me the wonderful bees colonies. It open my eyes about this animal. I'll bookmark this one and I'll show this to my student. I believe they'll liked it. I'll wait the Honey Bee Colonies in Danger-Part II. Have a good day!

Prasetio


American Romance profile image

American Romance 6 years ago from America

Sounds like if you can keep your bees alive you will have a prosperous beesniss! ..........OK come on that was funny! Thanks for an interesting write! LOL


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

bayoulady, That may have been the reason. Thanks for your comment.

Prasetio, Thanks you very much for your comments.

American Romance, It was funny! Thanks for your comment.


Support Med. profile image

Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

My goodness Pamela99; very well written hub here. I knew bees were important, but now I know more. It will be interesting to find out where this new parasite is coming from, what changes they will make in formulating pesticides and also doing what is best to see to it that crops are of a higher nutritional value. I really did not realize that bees need the crops to be of high nutritional value (it's like a give and take). I was actually fascinated by this and looking forward to reading part 2. Well done! Voted-up/rated.


DiamondRN profile image

DiamondRN 6 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

The circle of life. Well-done.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Support Med, I am glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks your for your comments.

DiamondRN, Thank you for your comment.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

We lived next door to a bee keeper in Illinois - it is a fascinating thing. Once when the queen got loose, she came to my cherry tree and the entire swarm followed her and hung there until the fellow came in all his garb and took the lady home! It was totally awesome - my kids were amazed!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Audry, Bees really are amazing. I appreciate your sharing your story.


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

Very strange comment up there; obviously the first one! But anyway, Pamela, this is such an important issue. I used to keep bees in the early 80's and know how very sensitive they are.

I had no idea, however, that a Queen can lay 1,500 eggs a day. I'm awfully glad I'M not the Queen! Can you imagine?

Great hub-looking forward to the second.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Lorie, Thanks for your comments. I certainly wouldn't want the queen's job either.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Bees R US. What happened to the "Killer Bees?" I hope they find the solution... Another great hub!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Dallas, Thank you for your comment. I address the killer bees in part II.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

I've heard about this and find it startling. So much of our food supply depends on bees!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you, Pamela, for such an impressive research and hub. I never knew half of the information you wrote.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Habee, That is why I wrote this hub. I think people should be aware of what is a big problem for agriculture. Thanks for your comment.

Hello, I am so glad you enjoyed the hubs on bees. Thanks for your comments.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Great hub as always. I have a colony of wild honey bees living inside the wall of my small barn... Every so often when they're too hot they all come out and congregate on one of the pine tree branches up front of the house. Last month I took a bunch of pictures. If you need more pics let me know and I'll send them to you they're still here on my desktop. Mind you the pictures you have used are fabulous...

hope you're well

kindest regards Zsuzsy


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France

I find honey bees fascinating. I used to be scared of bees but when I moved to France I discovered that my next door neighboor had bee hives in her back garden. She was patient enough to slowly introduce me and my children to the fascinating world of bees. Now every summer we help her collect the honey and pack it. It is amazing how such small creatures can be so complex and important.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Princessa, Thank you for sharing that story. I also think they are fascinating and so important in our world. I am very concerned about the disappearance of the worker bees. Thanks for your comments.


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

What's the deal...one of the most in-efficient processes in america is testing new product from toys to pesticides.I think the live and learn philosophy should have been a long adheard philosophy with the development of products;);)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Mentalist Acer, You make a very good point and the distinction of the bee population is most probably die to the pesticide and fertilizer products. Thanks for your comments.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

I've been away...looking forward to part 2!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Rtalloni, I know I hadn't see your for a long time so welcome back. Thanks for your comment.


billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

This is a very sad story and has been getting worse over the past few years. Thanks for the update and great honeycomb shot.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Billy, Thanks so much for your comments.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

Where we used to have hundreds of bees in the garden, now we rejoice to see a handful. Even though it becomes quite unruly unless severely trimmed every two years, Hyssop is much-loved by the bees in our area, so we always try to have some in the garden. Thanks for an insightful article.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Redelf, I sure hope they fix this bee problem. We have a lot of bumble bees on a plumbago plant. They seem to love those little purple flowers but I don't see many honey bees. Thanks for your comment.


nancy_30 profile image

nancy_30 6 years ago from Georgia

I haven't heard about this yet so thank you for bringing it to my attetion. This is really sad news. Bees are very important.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Nancy, Yes, they are. Thanks for your comments.


PhoenixV profile image

PhoenixV 6 years ago from USA

My dad was a beekeeper. Its scary to think they could start to disappear .


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Phoenix, It really is scary. My husband also was a bee keeper many years ago. I thought it was an important issue to write about and increase awareness. Thanks for your comment.


StephenSMcmillan profile image

StephenSMcmillan 5 years ago

Great hub. BEE-autifully written.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Stephen, Thank you for the "cute" comment.


whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 3 years ago from United States

CCD is an extremely major problem that faces the entire world and we certainly had better sit up and take notice before it is too late for humanity.whonu


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

whoununwho, That is so true. Thanks for the comments.

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