Silence of the Bees
CCD Update from Dennis van Engelsdorp (May 2009)

In May 2009, NATURE Online asked Dennis van Engelsdorp, Pennsylvania’s acting state beekeeper, to comment on recent developments in the investigation into Colony Collapse Disorder. Here’s what he had to say. Check back later in May for a new report detailing colony losses in the U.S. for this past winter.

Q: A new study by Spanish researchers, published in the February ’09 edition of the Environmental Microbiology Reports journal, suggests that the fungus Nosema ceranae had been isolated as the cause of colony collapse in two affected beekeeper colonies in Spain. Is this fungus responsible for the Colony Collapse Disorder in the U.S.?

A: Absolutely not. We identified Nosema ceranae right from the beginning, and right away it was clear that Nosema ceranae could not, on its own, explain losses CCD losses in America. I don’t know about Spain, but there are [scientists and beekeepers] in Europe who have had high losses who are saying it’s not Nosema ceranae. What we do know is that the description of mortality described in these papers isn’t the same as Colony Collapse Disorder.   I think what’s happening is that CCD has caught people’s attention and so now everything that is a colony dying is “Colony Collapse Disorder.” And that’s not true. Colony Collapse Disorder is a very defined set of traits: a rapid loss of the adult population and no dead bees in the bee yard or in the bee colonies, and that’s certainly not what this research described.  We also know that in America, not all colonies have Nosema ceranae — colonies have a lot of viruses. So instead of having one or two viruses, they’ll have five or six viruses. We think they have something like the flu, and this flu is simply wiping through. The question is “Why suddenly are the bees so susceptible to all of these other pathogens — including Nosema ceranae but certainly not limited to Nosema ceranae.

What kind of reception is the study having with experts in Spain and Europe right now?

I work with the American group and we were at the first conference they put together to try to figure out [the causes of] Colony Collapse Disorder. We said, “well, we don’t think it’s this because half the colonies that have CCD don’t have any Nosema ceranae.” It just seems like it’s a distraction, and it’s unfortunate because surely there are people in Spain, and in America, who have a problem with Nosema ceranae, and it’s very treatable. And our recommendation is to treat for Nosema ceranae because it is another stress, and if you reduce stress you’re probably going to help your bees out. But this “Oh we found the solution” sort of dilutes the pressure that exists to make sure we have the funding and resources we need to solve this problem. And we really do need to solve this problem.

Are there any other recent developments regarding CCD in North America since we last spoke in June 2008?

We have discovered a condition we’re calling entombed pollen, where there are high levels of fungicide in some pollen that might be associated with mortality. Certainly most of the colonies that are dying are not dying from CCD. Most of them are dying from poor queen quality, which is something that’s surprising.

Could you explain what you mean by “poor queen quality”?

Every colony has a queen, and what we’re finding is that those queens are dying. And if a colony is unable to successfully replace them, or if the beekeeper is unable to identify that there’s a problem with the queen and buy a new queen to replace her, the colony dies.

Also, we’re finding that beekeepers tend to have better success keeping their colonies alive by keeping colonies as healthy as possible and by aggressively treating disease and keeping colonies well nourished.

An updated development happening in California relates to almonds. You may remember from your Silence of the Bees film that normally half the colonies in the country are needed to pollinate the almond crop.  Demand for almonds was expected to grow through 2012, and there was an expectation that there wouldn’t be enough bee colonies in the country to pollinate the almonds. With the drought in California, it appears that they are now plowing under some of the older almond orchards. That has taken some of the pressure off, and we aren’t seeing some of the pollinator shortages we expected.

  • john

    thats bad yo

  • Efren R. Rivas, Jr., MS

    This may seem like a long-shot…has the spectral quality of the sun changed such that the bee’s navigational behavior is compromised? Don’t honey-bees use the sun to orient themselves to their environment. If so, are they leaving their hives and just getting lost.

  • Bobby LeBlanc

    I think scientist are looking in the wrong place. It’s something you can’t see. I propose that the silence of the bees is due to a change in the earths magnetic field.

  • Mark Goodwin

    HAARP may also have an affect on the bees navigation.

  • Vicky G

    Pollution, pesticides, globalization has pushed them over the edge. The culprit is us humans. Human birth control and demanding respect for the earth will work if science can ever convince the religious.

  • TZ

    Studies (D. Goulson, J.C. Stout) have been done to determine the methods used by bees for navigation back to their hives with the data strongly suggesting the use of landmarks, including the sun’s position in the sky, being more likely than the use of magnetic fields. These conclusions are supported by many studies (Von Frisch, K. Gardner) that relate the bee’s ‘waggle dance’ to the sun’s azimuth with respect to the hive and the food source. Similarly, no research has indicated any direct effects on bees from ambient electromagnetic energy, whether from cellular phones or power lines, these propositions being purely speculative. More likely root causes of CCD are widespread and varied exposures to pesticides and fungicides which, in conjunction with several strong viral pathogens, compromise the effectiveness of bee immune systems.

  • Brad C

    Being a beekeeper myself, the comment #5 is nonsense. Pesticides, parasites and poor nutrition are the major factors in CCD. Without human intervention, honey bees would have been extinct yrs ago when varroa swept the earth. “Demanding respect for the earth”…..”globalization has pushed them over the edge”…..Well should we all abandon technology as we know it and return to the stone age?

  • Mark R.

    I believe the timing coincides with the introduction of GM (genetically-modified) crops into wide use around the world. I’m sure many will dismiss this possibility out of hand, but I’d like to see some research which either proves or disproves this hypothesis. It is possible that either the GM crops are affecting the immune or digestive systems of the bees, or the increased use of RoundUp and other pesticides (used on RoundUp-resistant GM crops) could be the cause–

  • l)usty

    At #8.

    Very interesting point. With the new codex being implemented in late 2009 all grown foods nutritional value will be greatly diminished. For an example the nectarines grown in the okanagan valley in BC have much more colorful flesh than those from california. Meaning more nutrients of course. The ones from California are no doubt GM. Like the lady on the episode said… death by a thousand cuts not only for bees, but for humans too. Somebody doesn’t want us well fed.

  • Tom D

    I doubt that GM (genetically modified) crops have anything to do with it. If you remember from the 2007 show, in the Hunan(?) province of China, the ENTIRE bee population in that area completely disappeared some 10 years ago. They are now pollinating their ENTIRE pear crop by human hand now. I seriously doubt that their bees were killed off by GM produce.

  • Mark L.

    I agree that pecticides are a problem, but what about these remote places in the world that was mentioned in the “Silence of the Bees” production? They are no where near any pecticides or poisons, yet CCD is found in these places as well. The magnetic field idea in #3 seems to be a strong idea if these facts mentioned above are true.

  • Stan B.

    Roundup is an herbicide. Has there been a connection to bee or other insect toxicity?

  • Jon M

    #5 is a typical secular humanist that wants to blame everything on our existence. So maybe #5 should go jump off a bridge. Look, they have found all sorts of insecticides in the pollen in the hives. Which is a negative, but they didn’t say at what threshold. There is a certain ‘acceptable’ level of these products. However, responsible use of pesticides is imperative. I somehow think there is a piece of the puzzle we haven’t found yet. I’m a grower and know the importance of responsible spraying. I think malnutrition, systemic poisons, and fungal/viral parasites are all contributing to the decline, however there has to be one primary contributive factor in their bizarre disappearance. Why haven’t they tagged these little buggers, and watch the pattern of where they fly, vs. natural flight patterns??? Anybody?? Where’s the research on that?

  • Robert Kasameyer

    I live in the Northeast corner of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan – partly forest and partly agricultural. In my unscientific observations I have found a total absence of honeybees for the last several years. Instead, I see a small version of the Bumblebee becoming more common. This Summer however, I am again seeing some honeybees. An adaptation to whatever was causing their decline?

  • Kit Poland

    I live in central Maine, and I, too, have begun seeing a few honeybees this year after a couple of years of no honeybees at all. Oddly enough, they didn’t arrive for the fruit trees’ blooming, but are now showing up on the milkweed blossoms. I’d be curious to know if others are seeing them, and if anyone is checking to see if there’s an adaptation going on in their immune systems or something. Although, since they’re so rare right now, I’d rather just know they’re around than have someone slicing and dicing them to get answers! As for the “smaller version of the bumblebee” mention by #14, we’re seeing that here as well, but this year they’ve been pretty scarce as well.

  • Cesar Jardon

    Monsanto created Genetically Modified Plants to replace insecticides at with that they killed bad and good insects among them bees.The nectar and the pollen of these GMplants are killing the bees and it seems that the obviuos is not being investigated. Plus those GMFoods are also harmful to human beings…

  • JCD

    Living in CA I can tell you that the loss of bees has those whose livelihoods depend on good crop production severely worried. It seems to me to be a combination of factors: compromised immune systems, virus, pesticides. The most important thing is to continue to bring National attention to the problem and support funding for continued study into this serious epidemic. Enough about the Swine flu pandemic, it’s time the regular news played up the bee collapse pandemic!!

  • ER

    For what it’s worth, I haven’t seen any moths flying around my back porch light at night for the last 10 years at least. Nor have I had to clean bugs off the windshield of my car it seems forever. I live in southern Maine. When I was growing up bugs in the light beam at night seemed like you were driving in a now storm. Its not only the bees that are being affected.

  • WSO

    I live in NC and I also am convinced (its purely subjective) that there are more honeybees here this year, and they appear healthy.

  • Brad C

    Having honey bees “suddenly” appear or disappear from year to year is probably the movement of the local beekeepers in your area. Bees can fly 3-5 miles from the hive to find a source of food. If there are no readily available forage crops for the bees the beekeeper has probably moved them to another location. There are vitually no wild Eruopean honey bees anymore due to varroa.

  • Barbara Foley

    I have a new appreciation for bees

  • F. Friedrich Kling

    And #13 is a what a nonsecular, nonhumanist. Bugger off #13 with the labels as #5’s comments are spot on. I too am a farmer and I will personally testify that it’s mankind who is to blame. We have killed off all of Mother Nature’s natural pollinators, which is why the Honey bee, not native to the US, is so critical for the production of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Honey bees like the now the mass die-off of bats due to White Nose syndrome is like the canary in the coal mine that our environment is sick and dieing and so will we. Keep sticking your head in the sand #13.

  • curtis b

    I live in northeast Indiana. I have several large vegetable gardens and many flower beds and “wildflower” areas. I love to observe all aspects of plant life. It seems to me that there are many more honey bees this year than in the past 5 or 6. I saw 2 swarms this spring. I haven’t seen them for years. May just be coincidence but I am hopeful.

  • FromCanada

    Perhaps it’s time to start making little changes at ground level. Not just on mass comeercial products. Example, stop using pesticides in your own backyard, plant pollen heavy varietities of plant life and not just one variety either. My family makes a point of not killing any pollenators what so ever instead we try and teach our children and other about the importance of insects of all types. In our area my fruit plants have had a massive growth this years and a bountiful harves of fruits hanging from the trees vs last year where we barely had any. I will keep an eye out for changesover the next few years and we are going to be in contact with our local honey hives to see whatelse we can do to perpetuate the health of the bees. Small steps but hopefully in the right direction. I also think that it isn’t so bad to have a lawn full of dandelions…

  • Brad C

    #22…..Tell me, what are we going to do when the world population reaches 10 billion….15….20….which will probably happen in my lifetime??

    Science and technology have enabled a few to feed many. I for one, like having my food grown here in the US. Hopefully one day, scientists can create chemicals that can control pests and diseases that do not harm other organisms and the environment.

    #23….go take a drive around your area……there is probably a “yard” of bee hives within flying distance of your home. It will take those bees 1 million “flights” to individual flowers to make 1 pound of honey….busy as a bee!!! BTW, my bees produced 1.3 million lbs of honey last year… multiply that by 1 million…..WOW…..a lot of flights to flowers!!

  • sven

    I live in the Pacific Northwest where honey bees are NOT indigenous. I see a couple a day, but I see plenty of the almost 500 other species of bees that ARE indigenous. Guess what, they all pollinate! Truth is, if farmers would set aside enough space for native bee habitats, their crops wouldn’t need honey bees in the first place. Human kind’s manufactured imbalance is failing and mother nature is laughing.

  • Kathy O

    I live in Orange (Piedmont area) Virginia near Charlottesville. Yes, Honeybees are finally more noticable…particularly on the white clover, Bee Balm (Bergamot) and vegetables. I DO NOT use pesticides, chemicals nor any vegetation altering products on my lawn or plants. I have fruit, berry, nut and flowering trees as well as herbs, berries, vegetables and lots of flowering plants. Knowing how precious these little creatures are I watch for them each spring and rejoice at the sight of them, though their numbers are still sadly few. I value Honey (a tasty health food) as much as the pollenization they provide. Food growers need to somehow be more organic (or rather get back to it) and stop genetically and chemically assaulting and altering our food.

  • Bobby

    No worries, the feds will bail out the bees

  • steve

    Intelligence has put us atop the food chain. Arrogance keeps us there.

  • Wendy in Virginia

    Love the #27 comment, however, CCD has been found even with organic bee keeping and bees that pollinate areas using organic farming practices. So sad. I surely hope the recovery is soon and vigorous with whatever factors are causing CCD!

  • Paul Neuhausen

    After just watching the “Silence of the Bees”(2007) documentary once again two years later it seem that the syndrome that is happening to the bees is a manifestation of what is happening to much of our ecosystem; only in this situation the bees are a “red flag” indicator. Since the 1960s, the push for ever-greater crop yields by increasingly commercially-owned agricultural interests has “stressed” the “total” environment to a point of exhaustion or chronic-stress. In short; the bees are tired/overworked, exposed to insecticides, striving to seek out diminishing sources of Pollen because of over-population into what were once rural/natural growing areas. In the stated Almond-growing-cut back scenario in California the stress for pollinators has diminished; in an indirect manner the bees have been “saved” because they don’t have to work in such pressing environments. Think about it, if a human being were put in such a situation they would strike for better wages and working conditions, the bees, by contrast, do not complain and are summarily taken advantage of by the agricultural interests. This is not my “proof” of a single-cause theory but rather an “enlightened” perception which, if you put in all of the contributing factors previously mentioned, make “sense.” Note, I am an engineer/critical thinker by training, not a scientist, but in my opinion it is the species Homo Sapiens which needs to cut back on its’ population through Zero Population Growth for the next 100 years in order to win this any many other societal “battles.”

  • Paul M Burgess

    Lets face it all forms of extinction of insects to birds and animals has been do to man. Only we have wiped out so much in nature.We are born killers of this planet and all that it has.PERIOD

  • DGG

    THE PROBLEM: The only creature with the ability to destroy the planet is and in a gelogical blink of an eye.

  • Ben

    Here’s another angle to consider/research with the death from a thousand cuts angle. So far agriculutural GM plants have been mentioned as malnurishing bees. Well I have heard several theories that wild plants are now doing the same. As far as I have heard, wildflowers have become less scented, significantly. Meaning it just adds one more stress for bees, flowers are harder to find. If this theory is true, I don’t think it would be a large leap to assume that there is lessening nutritional value in these flowers pollen.
    As a side note, taking pock shots at typical secular folks, or religiouse folks only adds a degraded and maliciouse argument to a situation that needs solutions. Nock it off!

  • Chris

    I am a beekeeper and have to say that beekeepers and this system of agriculture we have going on now is the problem. We have this situation where half of the bees in the USA are trucked to California each year from as far away as Florida and Minnesota for almond pollination, so if any new bee disease arises it is immediately transmitted to the entire continent as these bees move back home after almonds are pollinated. Now we ship bees, royal jelly, and pollen from all over the world to support this system, so if there is any new disease in the world it gets distributed to the nation during almond pollination. And it is stressful to bees every time you move them. Second, beekeepers are running a commercial operation and cannot afford to lose half their bees while they select for bee stock resistant to disease, so they treat their bees with all sorts of chemicals that accumulate and remain in the wax comb from which they are slowly and constantly released to the bees as another stressor. Third, beekeepers requeen every year, in order to have vigorous bee production, using queens from a small number of queen producers so any resistant colonies that may show up in the beeyard are not propagated. Forth, bee keepers feed their bees all manner of artificial pollen patties and corn syrup so that large quantities of bees are ready for almond pollination in February when the bees would normally still be in cluster. Fifth, we have ever increasing use of new pesticides without adequate consideration for what effects this may have on bees.

  • David

    Chris sums up the ‘usual suspects’ well.
    Interested parties are encouraged to read “What’s Killing American Honey Bees?” in Plos Biology:

    And “Colony Collapse Disorder: A Descriptive Study”
    Also in Plos Biology:

    Chris may well have discerned the ’scene of the crime,’ if not the criminals when he wrote:

    “Now we ship bees, royal jelly, and pollen from all over the world to support this system, so if there is any new disease in the world it gets distributed to the nation during almond pollination.” Half of the commercial [non-feral] bees in the US are sent to pollinate almond trees…in the same time frame and narrow geographic area.

    Causal Factors?
    [1]Stresses associated with travel
    [2]Protein/nutritional deficiency due to inherent deficiencies in nutritional quality of almond pollen
    [3]Lessening genetic diversity due to diminished number of Queen-mating feral bees
    [4]New strains of parasites/bacterias
    [5]Impact of insecticides/man-made pathogens
    [6]Queens/bee stock developing genetic mutations/losing immunity to new viruses/bacteria

    The answer will not be found inside one set of the above brackets [?]…Rather, in an admixture of many bracketed suspects, many intertwined factors.

  • jl

    I just had a choice of purchasing “clover honey” (costco) or “flower honey from bulgaria” (from a ethnic food store). This time I decided to try something different and over concern regarding the clover source I purchased the flower honey. About 15 years ago, the los angeles hyperion sewage treatment plant was required to cease dumping solids offshore. the waste, often containing heavy metals (from chrome plating operations) and inactivated pathogenic virus’, was classified as unsuitable for food production. the 2 outlets for the material they found were sod growers (marathon in oxnard) and shipping it to central california where they could use it to grow clover as eventual food for beef and dairy cattle! (covered in I know our local cattle (chino?) consume a lot of clover because due to incomplete composting, a bag of manure always germinates a lot of clover plants. granted, there are many causes for ccd and that there may be many different causes for other geographies, but has anyone explored a possible link to clover production utilizing class B sewage sludge?

    fwiw: I have some familiarity with what finds it’s way into the treatment plants having worked at a small chemical plant 35+ years ago. then it was legal to dispose of many things so long as it was diluted sufficiently. the lab always had water jet powered aspirators to run the vacuum filtering flasks so a continuous flow of dilutive water was never lacking.

  • jorge velasquez

    i am sick of people always blaming humans for everything enough already. the reason they are dying might be increased by us but come on we are humans and we need to live or are we suppose to leave in a bubble. i refuse to.

  • John Cox

    They are very sensitive chaps and cannot handle exposure to microwaves. The EMR generated by the ever increasing cellphone towers is killing them and it’s working on us too.

  • Cwh

    #5 wow…strange
    #8 Dead on, along with many other man made factors, I’m sure. It would seem that every single time we consider ourselves greater than [we] should, our arrogance bites us in the backside. Man’s silly attempts at ‘improvements’ on that which was already perfect are just the distorted reflection of our arrogance. “Considering themselves wise, they became as fools.” Indeed, we are reaping what we have sown. It isn’t like we weren’t warned though, huh?
    I don’t think it coincidental that we are seeing an explosion of auto immune issues in humans. The toxic chemical cocktail’s that all living things are systematically exposed to are having a devastating impact. I’m a firm believer in being a good steward of all that we have been entrusted with, but some of the more ‘fringe’ arguments will only lead to ‘fringe’, ineffective methods and measures of intervention. We shouldn’t trade one wrong ideology for another. This is about the content of our character. Getting back to the basics and simply doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. Tossing out ridiculous assumptions and accusations will only lead to division and will ultimately create an atmosphere that is heated and angry, and be even more toxic than even the environment we have created. We should all be able and willing to ‘reason’ together in a respectful tone without offending others. I find it ironic that the same humanistic arrogance that got us in the situation we’re in, touts itself as the answer to all the problems we face.

  • Merry Girl

    I live in the South West. I have only seen about 5 honey bees this year. I also notices a decrease in other flying insects. In the summers, our street lights are usually swarmed with insects at night. Last year, I noticed that there were fewer insects located around the porch light, but this year I can count them on two hands. Why are we loosing so many of these insects? I think that it could be linked to cell phone radiation. Just a guess! It is the one thing in the last 10 years that has changed dramatically. Could it be that those invisible signals are damaging to the delicate systems of flying insects?

  • Red Forest

    Has anyone asked a bird expert if the “sudden” onset of CCD corresponds to a resurgence of bird populations? I have never heard anyone consider the possibility of preditory birds or bats feeding on bees as a simple explanation.

  • brian

    Yes Sven is right. I think the videos should tell the story of how native North American bees have been shown to be more effective pollinators of cranberries, squash, melons, etc. But only at farms that have some natural habitat for native bee nesting! We can survive the extinction of the introduced honey bee here in north america if we diversify our farms and protect-create native bee habitat.
    Also, how can anyone say Genetically Modificed crops can’t be a cause? Most of the modifications have to do with pesticide and herbicide tolerance – so there is a strong link to more nast chemicals in GM fields.

  • Joe buonaugurio

    This may be way off target, but most cities in the us and many countries now flouridate our our drinking water, as well as add chlorine to prevent
    contamination. For those who do not know, Flouride is a scam, it is the main ingredient in Rat poison and in small doses it is not noticible
    but it accumulates in time in the body. Lets face it Bees need water. If you check this link it will show the countries that flouridate the waters.

  • dan winter

    science now HAS the details HOW the gmo corn killed the bees

  • thelma harcum

    The story of the Silience of the Bees was so infomative that this summer, my grandchildren will be assigned to study this situation and to learn as much about bees as possible. This situation is of great concern and I certainly support this study. My granddaught er school signature is the honeybee and so there’s going to be pictures of bees drawn by them to bring attention to this situation. I will update on my blogs as soon as I learn more and article from the notes I took when viewing this broadcast on Thanks for all the updates. I hope everyone go on a campaign to study and support this cause.
    I twieeted just now about the story on Every little bit of support helps to help research and communication to others so that we at least won’t use pesticides in gardening. We can do that.

  • dennis davidoff

    I can think of 2 more possible reasons for this problem: GMO contamination of non-GM wild life, and “chemtrails” (aka method of fighting the effects of global warming, patent #5003186

  • Knick

    The ties that bind about the talk of bees are broomed oft’ as well, it seems. What is in our control if not first ourselves? Is this the place we look the least?
    So whatever # i may be yet most likely will agree with the certain words of #22: “Bugger off #13″.

  • Joyce A

    Glad to see so many thoughts on this cliff-edge catastrophe. WHAT I’d really wouldlike to see, esp on TV, is less of those ridiculous shows about ghost hunters, horror movies, cartoons, red carpet reruns and other cable reruns. Use the television and news broadcasts for reporting these issues to get people concerned as a population and thinking about what each of us can do to help alleviate the as yet specific unknown causes! Lots of good notes here except for those few that refuse to give human beings any responsibility for thenatural problems we face. It’s our lives, TOO! Stick-in-the-sands, stand up and shake it out of your ears!!

  • Joseph Krygier

    Most recent update
    “These findings implicate co-infection by IIV and Nosema with honey bee colony decline, giving credence to older research pointing to IIV, interacting with Nosema and mites, as probable cause of bee losses in the USA, Europe, and Asia. We next need to characterize the IIV and Nosema that we detected and develop management practices to reduce honey bee losses.”
    I monitor this, because I teach environmental safety classes regarding pesticide applications in NYS.

  • A.Mills

    D.D.T. was banned without enough research because it was supposedly harming the shells of certain birds it had been used for years with no proven harm to birds,humans or other animals. Fact is the only thing accomplished with the ban ,is an increase in Malaria,which has killed millions.Inspite of a ten dollar donation for a mosquito net. Just wondering,do you think that once again we over-reacted,and substituted a proven pesticide,with many differant chemicals,some of which,may be harmfull to the birds and the bees,not to mention the clowns responssible.

  • chris

    along with the rise in cellphone use is the rise in popularity of rush Limbaugh and fox news network…lets blame them too while we’re at it … make as much sense.

  • Charles

    I agree with the contributor who says that some of the blame lies with the practice of transporting bees long distances. In California we have for decades enforced agricultural quarentines to protect our crops. It may be time to do the same with bees. the other thought I have is that most of the “royal jelly” that is used in this country to feed bees come from mainland China. They have sold us poisened pet food and poisened milk products, perhaps they have sold us poisened bee products as well.

  • Payton K

    My very resent studies say that bees will die off by 2014 and in my opinion it is the goverments fault if the bees die because the \y are not taking action

    Thank you

  • Dr. Tom Ferrari

    CCD is not a new disorder, having been reported for more than a century. Disappearing Disease, Vanishing Disease, Dwindling Disease and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) are names used in the past to describe the disappearance of honey bees from a colony. The chief symptom — a sudden loss of foragers — is inconsistent with a pathogen as the cause; otherwise, a disease would result in a “sick” colony. Instead, many times colonies are able to recover, hive equipment is reused on healthy colonies without serious ill effects and extensive research has indicated no difference in pathogen loads between healthy and afflicted colonies. What does make sense is the affect geomagnetic storms have on orientation behavior of bees. An extensive body of scientific evidence indicates honey bees have a magnetoreceptive sense for orientation purposes. My examination of published data indicates a statistically significant correlation between loss of colonies and the increasing strength of geomagnetic storms which impact our planet. Such storms cause perturbations to Earth’s magnetosphere and are caused by severe eruptions on the sun. (Power lines and cell phone towers emit static magnetic fields which are different compared with fluctuations in the magnetosphere caused by geomagnetic storms.) Having lost their orientation ability during a storm, foragers simply get lost and are unable to return to the hive.

  • Brad L.

    I’m not a scientist, but I am a Detective, where logic generally gives us the answers. I find it interesting to note that where ever CCD was found, the use of bee food from China was used. Like the tracking of HIV led us to it’s basic origins, doesn’t this tell us the basic origins of CCD? I would be very interested to hear from the researchers as to the attempts made in rural China,where it seems to have been hit the hardest, (’0′) bees left, to remedy the situation. Have new bees been introduced, and if so to what effect on the new bees.It seems that re-introducing bees back into the system would have been the easiest solution compared to hand pollenization. Unless that failed as well???? Also has the Israel Virus mentioned, been tracked? Did it come from Australia or did Australia get it from Israel? It was never mentioned. I would also like to have someone with a degree in this clerify the electro-magnetic question. One person says that bees DON’T use magnetic fields to navigate, another person says they do. NO OPINIONS please! Do they or don’t they????? What happens to a bee when it can’t find it’s way home? Traveling the bees, effects and spreads the CCD, of that I have no doubt, but I doubt it’s the cause. I agree that California needs to build it’s own bee population, otherwise there really is no quarrenteen, but again, not the cause or solution of CCD. T. Ferrari makes some good points about sick colonies compared to absent colonies. However isn’t one of the honey bees defense mechanisms to have a sick bee leave the colony before it can infect the rest of the colony? Also with as many absent bees that there have been, wouldn’t we see evidence of them, alive or dead, at least in the test colonies. One last question. About the quality of the Queen bee. How are they bread? In most things alive, inbreeding causes problems with the species. Again how are the NEW queens that they say are introduced each year, bread and what effect could that have on the hives ability to produce strong bees. They say that worker bees only live, what, 30 days. Are they dieing off with no replacements being brought into the hive because of week development from the queen bee? I hope that someone can enlighten me on my questions.

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 THIRTEEN Productions LLC. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.