Thursday, January 5, 2012

A solution to honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder? Doubt it.

The world’s honeybees are suffering from a disastrous ailment—millions of bees are suddenly failing to return to their hives. Some beekeepers have lost more than half their hives.

Hawai`i beekeepers are also suffering with an array of intractable threats to their bee colonies.

Dozens of researchers have “solved” the problem. Don’t believe them. Nobody yet knows for sure what’s causing the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder. And, one tip—don’t trust the headlines that suggest someone does.

The latest culprit in CCD is a parasitic fly, whose larvae get into bees and confuse them—causing them to lose their way home. Some headlines are categorical. Here’s one: Parasitic Fly to Blame for Honeybee Population Decline.

Maybe. But then there was the report that Colony Collapse bees have different genetic makeups from regular bees.

And perhaps it’s a new class of nicotine-based pesticides, which is outlined in the movie, “Nicotine Bees.”

The neonicotinoid pesticide theory has this intriguing bit: When Italy banned the nicotinoid pesticides, its bees reportedly started to recover:

“In 2009, Italy's neonicotinoid-free corn sowing resulted in no cases of widespread bee mortality in apiaries around the crops. This had not happened since 1999. The European Research Center, Youris, reported that Moreno Greatti, from the University of Udine stated, `Bee hives have not suffered depopulation and mortality coinciding with maize sowing this year. Beekeepers from Northern Italy and all over the country are unanimous in recognizing that the suspension of neonicotinoid- and fipronil-coated maize seeds.’” That’s from TreeHugger.

Some suggest CCD is the result of poor management by beekeepers, but that wouldn’t explain why unmanaged wild bee hives have gone virtually extinct in many parts of the world.

Some folks blame cell phones—a theory that apparently originated from a German study of whether cordless phones could impact bee learning. The author of the study itself says there’s no connection to colony collapse disorder: "If the Americans are looking for an explanation for colony collapse disorder, perhaps they should look at herbicides, pesticides and they should especially think about genetically modified drops," said Stefan Kimmel, who co-authored the German study, in a New York Times report.

Kimmel emailed Associated Press to further assert that there is “no link between our tiny little study and the CCD-phenomenon ... anything else said or written is a lie."

Then there are the predations by varroa mites, nosema disease, tracheal mites or even a combination of all of these things.

A University of Florida Extension Service scientific report has a pretty evenhanded review of the problem.

The upshot right now is that there’s a lot of research going on, there are tons of theories, and there are no definitive answers.

And if anyone claims to have one, be suspicious.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2012

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