Tropical Apiaries
Bee Removal Service & Bee Farm 

954-559-0700
Specializing In Bee Removal, Relocation,
and Extermination Services

Serving Dade, Broward & Palm Beach Counties

CCD

What causes CCD?

The cause of CCD is under investigation. At this point, almost every conceivable and realistic cause remains a possibility. The leading candidates and a brief explanation of their potential role are listed below. This is not a comprehensive list and the candidates occur in no particular order. It is important to note that this list may change as new information on CCD becomes available. Such changes could result in the addition or exclusion of any of the following potential causes. The author makes no attempt to promote or undermine any one of the following theories.

  1. Traditional bee pests and diseases (including American foulbrood, European foulbrood, chalkbrood, nosema, small hive beetles, and tracheal mites): Although considered potential causes, “traditional” bee maladies (those nearly-cosmopolitan throughout the United States and globally) likely are not responsible for causing CCD. This is because they do not have a history of promoting CCD-like symptoms. That said, traditional bee pests and diseases may exacerbate the disorder, so scientists have not abandoned experiments investigating them.

  2. Honey Bee management practices: Management style is a broad category but it can include the type of income pursued with bees (honey production, pollination services, etc.) or what routine colony management beekeepers perform (splitting hives, swarm control, chemical use, etc.). Both of these vary considerably among beekeepers so this possible cause of CCD is given less attention. That said, poor management can make any colony malady worse.

  3. Queen source: Scientists are investigating the lack of genetic diversity and lineage of bees, both related to queen quality, as possible causes of CCD. Regarding the former, relatively few breeder queens are used in the United States to produce the millions of queen bees (and therefore all bees) used throughout the United States. Geneticists refer to this as a genetic bottle neck. This lack of genetic biodiversity can make bees increasingly susceptible to any pest/disease that invades the system.

  4. Chemical use in bee colonies: Like farmers in other agricultural sectors, beekeepers often attempt to chemically-control the various maladies affecting their honey bees in an effort to keep their bees healthy and productive. Investigators recently have found a number of sub-lethal effects of these chemicals on honey bees (workers, queens, and drones) even when the chemicals were used according to label and in accordance with best management practices suggested by specialists. These sub-lethal effects have led some to consider the role of in-hive chemical use in the CCD paradigm.

  5. Chemical toxins in the environment: Another chemically-oriented theory is that toxins in the environment are responsible for CCD. Because pesticides are used widely in cropping systems in an effort to kill herbivorous insects, one is left to consider the potential for non-target chemical effects on foraging bees. In addition to being exposed to toxins while foraging, honey bees also may encounter toxins by drinking water contaminated with chemical runoff, encountering various chemicals (household, commercial, etc.) through contact outside of the hive, or via direct inhalation.

  6. Genetically modified crops: Some people have proposed that genetically modified crops may be responsible for the widespread bee deaths. Interestingly, many seeds from which genetically modified crops are grown are dipped first in systemic insecticides that later may appear in the plants' nectar and pollen. This makes genetically modified plants suspect because of their chemical treatment history, not just because they are genetically modified. Scientists have begun initial investigations into both theories but no conclusive data have been collected.

  7. Varroa mites and associated pathogens: Even with the concerns surrounding CCD, varroa mites remain the world's most destructive honey bee killer. As such, varroa and the viruses they transmit have been considered as possible causes of CCD. Further, varroa often are controlled chemically by beekeepers. So varroa (perhaps not directly) has been considered a potential cause of CCD because the mite itself is damaging, it transmits viruses to bees, and it can elicit chemical responses from beekeepers. Despite this, there have been instances of colonies showing symptoms of CCD when their varroa populations were under control.

  8. Nutritional fitness: Scientists have proposed nutritional fitness of adult bees as a potential cause of CCD. This topic is being investigated although little information exists currently to support/refute the role of nutrition. Malnutrition is a stress to bee's, possibly weakening the bees immune systems. A weak immune system can affect a bee’s ability to fight pests and diseases.

  9. Undiscovered/new pests and diseases: Finally, undiscovered or unidentified pests/pathogens are considered possible causes of CCD. Some believe that a new pest/disease may have been introduced into the United States and is causing CCD. To give one example, Nosema apis (a microsporidian that lives in the digestive tract of honey bees) has been present in the United States for many years. In 2006, scientists discovered and identified a new nosema species,Nosema ceranae, present in some colonies displaying symptoms of CCD (it also has been found in bee samples dating back to 1995). When this disease is present in bees in elevated levels, the bees leave their colonies, never to return. Although the role of N. ceranae in the CCD complex is not understood, it and other new pathogens may play an important role in elevated bee deaths. Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus is another example of a recently-discovered pathogen that may play a role in colony losses.

  10. Synergisms between the above stressors: Many scientists believe that CCD is caused by a combination of the factors above. To illustrate this point, some dead bees showing symptoms of CCD have had elevated levels of normally-benign pathogens in their bodies, possibly indicating a compromised immune system. In theory, any stress or combination of stresses (chemicals, genetic bottlenecks, varroa, etc.) can suppress a bee's immune system. Considering synergistic effects as a potential cause of CCD makes the disorder increasingly harder to study.

How will CCD affect the general public?

In general, most people respect honey bees, recognizing their importance, while being cautious when near them. This is not surprising because honey bees can inflict a painful sting. Stings aside, most people also recognize honey bees for the sweet honey that they produce. To be sure, the production and sale of honey supports thousands of beekeeper families and provides the consumer with an alternative to sugar (incidentally, there is no evidence that honey from CCD colonies is unsafe for human consumption). However, honey is of only minor importance compared to the benefits afforded humans by honey bee pollination.

Beekeepers managing their bees for purposes of pollination load their colonies on trucks and move them around the country, going from blooming crop to blooming crop. Growers pay beekeepers from $40-150 per colony just to ensure that they will have an adequate supply of honey bees to pollinate their crop. In return, the growers benefit by having a higher fruit/vegetable/nut production per acre, larger size, and better shape of the product, and even enhanced product taste in many instances.

The benefits of honey bee pollination are not to be taken lightly. The simple act of beekeepers moving honey bees around the country ensures our country's food supply. Agriculture needs honey bees and their disappearance is cause for concern. Yet, no one believes that honey bees will disappear altogether, even with the concerns over CCD. Instead, the average American may experience increased food prices and decreased food availability if honey bees continue to die at the current rate. The almond industry illustrates this point well.

Almond producers in California continue to plant more acres of almonds every year yet honey bee populations have suffered a steady decline during the same time period. The latest estimation suggests that by 2012, California almonds will need 2 of the 2.5 million colonies present in the United States. just to be pollinated adequately (~1.5 million colonies are taken to California to pollinate almonds currently). If all of the bees are going to California for almond pollination, what will happen to apples in Washington? Blueberries in Maine? Citrus in Florida? Etc.? This loss of bees could begin a price war in the pollination industry, resulting in growers being forced to pay higher rent prices for bee colonies. The net effect is that the consumer will have to pay a higher price for the food that they currently enjoy. In the worst case scenario, food availability will begin to decrease as honey bees die.