Silence of the Bees
Interview: Dennis van Engelsdorp (June 2008)

In June 2008, NATURE checked in with Pennsylvania’s acting state beekeeper, Dennis van Engelsdorp, for an update on the latest details on the investigation into Colony Collapse Disorder.

Q: In Silence of the Bees, you are shown monitoring a quarantine of several collapsing hives from a Pennsylvania beekeeper. Is this monitoring ongoing?

A: All of the original colonies died by December [2007]. We now have eight new colonies at that site, and continue to sample once a week. We are watching disease growth curves, and this year we are sampling a more diverse range of bees.

What have you been hearing recently from other beekeepers?

The Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) commissioned a survey to estimate colony losses across the country between September 2007 and 2008. The USDA-ARS Beltsville Honey Bee Lab conducted a similar survey of beekeepers pollinating almonds in California in February 2008. In total, nearly 19 percent of the country’s estimated 2.44 million colonies were surveyed. A total loss of 36 percent of managed honey bee colonies was recorded. This represents a 13.5 percent increase in total losses as compared to last year. The 327 operators surveyed lost nearly a third of their colonies, on average.

Are all of these losses attributable to CCD?

One of the symptoms of Colony Collapse Disorder is the complete absence of bees in dead colonies. The AIA survey data doesn’t differentiate between true CCD cases and other cases that share this symptom. However, the 37.5 percent of operations that reported having at least some of their colonies die with this symptom had a total colony loss of about 41 percent. This compares to the roughly 17 percent colony loss reported by beekeepers who didn’t have “the complete absence of bees.”

It’s important to keep in mind that at least 71 percent of all colony deaths can be attributed non-CCD causes. This really emphasizes the need for further research into pollinator health in general — not just CCD.

Last October NATURE Online reported the research breakthrough that Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) had been found in over 96 percent of bees from CCD-affected hives. This doesn’t mean that IAPV is the only — or even the main — culprit behind CCD, however. Could you tell us about what has been learned since that time about the role IAPV may play in CCD?

Research published in September 2007 showed that among known pathogens, IAPV was the most consistent indicator of CCD. And it was found in at least 19 states. However, Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV), and two microscopic spore parasites — Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae — were also found to be indicators of CCD. Also, no clear cause and effect relationship was found between IAPV and CCD. Not all colonies with IAPV die off, and it’s possible that other stress factors are needed to make IAPV deadly to bee colonies.

Besides IAPV, how has the investigation evolved since last fall in regard to the other potential causes, such as pesticides and varroa mites? What kinds of studies are going on now?

We are in the final stages of receiving individual colony analysis on pathogens and pesticides from the original data set and are analyzing and writing up these results. IAPV cannot explain CCD losses by itself, and other factors are being examined.

Last year we monitored 280 colonies as they moved up and down the East Coast. We are processing this data, to test some predictors of disease based on last year’s studies.

We’ve also discovered some new conditions that seem to be affecting survivorship, and we are trying to figure out what exactly these are.

The effort to look at the impacts of pesticides has reveled a surprisingly large number of different pesticides in pollen, wax, and the bees themselves — and some of these at high levels. These pesticides are used in agriculture and sometimes by the beekeepers themselves. We have initiated investigations into the sub-lethal effects of pesticides, potential synergistic effects of multiple pesticides, the impact of pesticides in combination with other stress factors — like IAPV or varroa mites — and the use of irradiation to mitigate pesticides residues.

In many media reports on CCD, there is a feeling of inevitability that suggests that beekeepers are just waiting for CCD to decimate their hives. What can beekeepers do now?

Beekeepers are advised to practice good hygiene with their hives. For example, they shouldn’t combine weak colonies with stronger ones or exchange colony hardware. This kind of contact can spread diseases. Beekeepers should irradiate “dead-out” equipment — or at least store it for as long as possible — before reusing it with other colonies.

There are also products that beekeepers can use to control other colony stresses, like varroa mites and other parasites. And because nutrition is a concern, beekeepers should make sure their colonies are well fed, especially with a protein supplement.

Many of our viewers are interested in doing whatever they can to help. What would you tell them?

There are many things people can do: become a beekeeper, support beekeepers by buying local honey, plant a pollinator garden, and use less pesticides.

For more information, see “How can you help the bees?

  • Bill Rose

    Some independent studies have shown that bees do not return to their hives if a cell phone is placed nearby. I would like to know why this information was not even considered for inclusion in the show. Cell phone companies, of course, do not want any information disclosed about harmful effects of cell phone use and apparently suppress such research findings. Is that the case here as it is in mainstream media?

  • susan strazzini

    This program is extremely important…in it’s content and, is of concern to the whole world. I only wish that it were mandatory news that could be shown to all; including the president. The danger of losing our bees is directly related to every choice we, the world over,make. The personal choices we all make such as what we choose to buy to eat; ie meat or not meat, GMO crop foods, or organic produce or conventional. Every time we do these things, weeither support the continuation of certain practices of argri-business that either contribute to the death of the vital bees and other life forms in our eco-systems, as well as our declining environmental resources or not. It’s a shame that the scientists are so “perplexed” over this “mystery” of the so-called Colony Collapse Disorder…it’s a no-brainer to me. The biggest contributor to this phenom. is truly the agri-business of Genetically Modified crops. To be sure, I easily think it is responsible for the recent outbreak of dangerous tomatoes. Thank you for airing such an important program.

  • ACH

    If it’s our technology that’s interfering with the bes and other animals, like the whales and radar frequency, maybe we could set aside a couple of days each month of total quiet and shut off all the electricity, cell phones, cars, trucks, and airplanes in the country (except for hospitals and emergency vehicles) so that the wildlife could get a rest from us. We could call those days, Animal Relief Day.

  • I. Wolf

    The program did mention the cell phone theory about cell phones affecting bee navigation at about the 15 minute mark where Dennis Van Engelsdorp (Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture) says: “The cell phone theory stemmed from an ambiguous report in a British paper. The guy who did the research in Germany on this cell phone, he actually put just a cordless phone in a colony and rang it. And.. it was a very badly designed study and he has retracted all statements. But that really took wings.”

  • Ares Abani

    A nice man in Australia gave me this info.Maybe it will help.

    Varroa destructor is an external parasitic mite that attacks honey bees Apis cerana and Apis mellifera. The disease caused by the mites is called varroatosis.

    Varroa destructor can only replicate in a honey bee colony. It attaches at the body of the bee and weakens the bee by sucking hemolymph. In this process the mite spreads RNA viruses like Deformed Wing Virus to the bee. A significant mite infestation will lead to the death of a honey bee colony, usually in the late autumn through early spring. The Varroa mite is the parasite with the most pronounced economic impact on the beekeeping industry. It may be a contributing factor to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which is threatening hives throughout North America.

    here’s the link to the rest of the story

  • jessie

    I was so worried about the bees, I had to see for myself…I notice there are not a lot of bees in my neighbourhood, so,

    I visited a local bee farm yesterday here in Canada, and the bee keeper stood next to a healthy hive of 50,000 bees on his cell phone… he has 300 healthy hives of approx. 50,000 bees each, and he said his numbers have actually increased this year. I was relieved that he rejected the cell phone idea, and happy to see this amount of healthy bees.

    He also said that one reason the bees have disappeared in some hives is because of overly long winters and bees not having enough honey in the hives left to eat, so they starve. Wow. Are we this shortsighted? Could the long winter in combination with the virus be the cause?

    I was happy to see a place where people are busy breeding healthy bees. I am not a scientist, but I wonder if the foreign jelly that was imported and fed to hives may have been the catalyst for the virus? It’s not unheard of in tree species or fish, and there are bans at the US border for this reason.

    Thank you for such a though provoking documentary, I am encouraging people to put up small bee houses in their gardens!

  • pooja badotra

    i am a research scholar in panjab university chandigarh. i am doing work related in varroa infested apis mellifera.I want rcent literature related to antioxidant enzymes bee,secondary infection ,histochemical studies related to mandibular and sting gland in infested bee.With regards, POOJA BADOTRA(Research scholar).

  • Melissa Winston

    Bees are very sensitive to ethanol. A fine mist of ethanol will knock a flying bee to the ground instantly dead. Yeast are widespread in nature and fermentation of honey produces ethanol. I don’t think that this would contribute to CCD, but it is another reason to keep hives as clean and as dry as possible.

  • Graham White

    It is fascinating that Dave Hackenberg – the bee-farmer who first alerted the world to the existence of CCD in America – has recently gone ‘on the record’as saying that he is now convinced that it is ‘neo-nicotinoid’ pesticides that are at the root of CCD. These systemic neuro-toxins are used on a truly massive scale in America – but they have been banned in France since 2000AD and were banned outright in Germany in May 2008.

    Hackenberg also said that – in his view – ‘Big Ag’ was running the USDA from the Director down to the ‘lowest guy on the totem pole’. From a European viewpoint – there seems to be a massive PR push in America to avoid linking CCD with pesticides at all costs – presumably because of the $billions at stake from Bayer’s point of view.

    There is a principle in science called ‘Ockham’s Razor’ – which in essence says: ” always look at the simplest hypothesis first” – it could well apply here.

    We have a new family of systemic pesticides – which are not ON the plants but IN them. They are fantastically lethal to insects: just 5 parts per billion kills bees outright – and less than 0.1 ppb messes up their nervous systems to the point that they cannot fly, navigate, or sense the world around them.
    These super-pesticides – the Neo-Nicotinoids are used on a truly massive scale across the USA on: maize, sunflowers, potatoes, peas, beans, barley, wheat, almonds, apples, pears – you name it – everything.

    These systemic poisons are present in the roots, sap, leaves, pollen, nectar and fruit/ grain of every acre of crops they are applied to. Here in the UK over 2 million acres of crops are treated with these insecticides; in the USA it is probably 100 times more – 200 million acres of crops lethal to bees?

    So – following Ockhams Razor: we have a new family of super insecticides, used on hundreds of millions of acres of crops across the USA, and present in lethal amounts in the pollen and nectar of every plant they are applied to.

    That seems like a damn good working hypothesis to me.

    So why are the science and ag people SO reluctant to even look at it? Could it be because they are being paid/ persuaded not to look there?

    Just ask yourself this:

    500,000 hives lost in France: Imidacloprid and Fipronil banned in 2000AD.

    20,000 hives lost in a single week in Germany in May 2008 – Imidacloprid and Fipronil banned immediately.

    But why is it that in the USA – where these pesticides are used on a truly massive scale – nobody is even talking about banning them?

  • Xallea

    Graham, I am an American. I just learned to day about these Neo-Nicotinoids from YouTube of all places and I had to actually go looking for videos on CCD.

    It’s been my experince that Americans in general just aren’t very aware about CCD. A lot of the people I have talked to have never even heard about it. The media just doesn’t seem to cover it very much, at least not where I live. I’ve found out more about it, but actually searching out information and a little from our local religious group that’s taking this a bit more seriously.

    Personaly, I don’t think that the US public is talking about banning these super pesticides because they truely aren’t really aware of them or the danger they pose. I don’t really know for sure, but that seems me to be how it is.

    Now as I’m learning about these pesticides, I’m very glad that I don’t use any pesticides at all in my home garden. I rely mainly on the natural preditors like spiders for my pest control. So far that’s worked for me, but I’m very new to gardening.

  • Keth Luke

    We ask the Bees Apr 26th 07 article
    This is a channeling by trance channel Eileen Adair oklahoma city ok.
    Questioner is peg hamilton oklahoma city.Apr. 26,07

    Q. What is going on with the bees? (Note – They have been disapearing all over the planet – Keth)

    A. Of the entities you call bees, carries joy.
    What is necessary to sustain the life of the bees is recognition of their roll
    and appreciation of their work and the necessary factors to support their life.
    Also the bees are in trauma due to the mistreatment of their species.

    They protest they are being captured and made to work for humans to
    produce what humans desire rather than their natural state of being which
    is joyful and organized.
    When humans take over the bees they
    are attempting to organize that which is in perfection. And the bees are angry.
    They also protest because there is a natural predator which has been released,
    and allowed to proliferate attacks on the joyful life of these bees.
    And this is a type of insect which stings and attacks called wasps.
    The bees will not remain where they are being so many different
    ways.When they go to the plants to make their healing substance the plants
    are covered in gooey substances. Manmade artificial chemicals which injure
    the bees spirit and body.They will not continue to serve man under such
    conditions.When man begins to recognize these injustices the bees may return.

    Q-You say May?

    A- The bees take their directive from the angelic portion of the Devic kingdom ,
    and if they are so ordered they will return.
    People do not understand that without the bees ——-

    Q- I think they do know I am wondering if they will do it.

    A- But they are thinking with their robot minds instead of their hearts.

    Q- So the bees want to not be limited to our hives.

    A- We will no longer allow ourselves to become slave labor with incorrect method.
    because the product of our labors is denatured and contaminated.
    We will not permit this.
    And there are chemicals on the plants.
    And we are controlled in large hives to produce the way man desires and we
    do not want this.

    Q And if man were to not make hives and control populations of bees you would
    allow the sharing of the product?And remove the chemicals.?

    A- Those of you who support organic,natural and gentle methods will be
    allowed visits from the bees.
    For Those who are without soul in their methods, we will remove ourselves.
    Remember we are a race too. We have our desires our joys, we are not a machine.
    to be used at the discrimination of humans.

    Q What can we do to help with the wasp situation.?

    A- We will not speak of this as we are using this means of eradication
    of our race so that we can remove our energies to a place which can benefit
    from what we have to offer.

    Q- You say a place meaning—-

    A- Another inhabited planetary sphere.

    Q- That’s very plain.
    And if we change our ways and respect the bees and allow them to be free
    and respected, will the bees return.?

    A- The chemicals must be eliminated.

    Q- What particular chemicals.?

    A Petroleum based. Those chemicals which kill other beings.
    Also in our travels,we have found plant forms that are not as the creator intended.
    They have been altered and made to suit the whims of the stupid humans.
    The DNA material has been altered and is detrimental to our bodies.
    We cannot reproduce properly when consuming material from these plant forms.
    How can you people not see this!

    Q- We have been ignorant but we can change

    A We are not convinced of this.!

    Q- I understand.

    A- You must appeal to the angelic rulers of our kingdom the Devic forces
    who control the comings and goings of various species on this planet.
    And we must have strong assurance that immediate changes are forthcoming.

    Q I am very sorry for what we have done.

    A- Thank you human, we take leave of this being.

    Q- I will try and get this to effective places.

  • Meli D

    If we don’t want ourselves or our children to end up pollinating our own food crops like people must in parts of China, we can do a few things RIGHT NOW.
    …We can stop using poisonous chemicals.
    …We can stop buying products that use poisonous chemicals–we can’t afford organic food??? We can’t afford non-organic food!!!
    …We can stop using plastic (plastic hives are used by beekeepers; those same chemicals in plastic that are thought to disrupt reproduction in other species may do the same for bees.)
    …We can stop reproducing to the point where we crowd out every other species and every wild space on earth.
    …We can grow organic native plants that will support honeybees and other insects and wildlife, and we can create refuges for the species we have decimated and continue to destroy.
    …We can keep in mind that there’s only so much we can destroy before we destroy ourselves. If you don’t believe we’re on that road, you’re not paying attention. And the problem is much closer and more serious than you think.

  • April

    I’m becoming totally overwhelmed the more I learn how intricately every last thing on Earth is interconnected and interdependent. I had absolutely NO idea that so many important food crops depended on BEES for pollination.

    Perhaps the last thing that should ever have gone global was industrialization. As long as industrial and government policies are morally vacuous, they should not be allowed to spread. I think the quality of our air, water and food supply are more important than profitability.

  • Emma

    i also am in 7th.
    same as mariah.this teacher talks a lot!!
    Go honey bees

  • Kim

    I don’t know much about the matter, but is it possible that the neonicotinoids somehow mutated into a virus?

  • robert tormey

    Graham White got it right. It’s the neonicotinoids. See “A Spring Without Bees” by Michael Schacker. Since the French banned these chemicals they’ve seen the Bees’ come back. IAPV is a ruse as it has been around before CCD anyway. But Bayer, the makers of neonicotonoids like imidacloprid (IMD, Gaucho,) keep it going. The US isn’t going after this one I’m afraid the beekeepers are on their own until they sue Bayer and the EPA over it all.

    Kim, the neonicotinoids didn’t mutate into a virus. Virus’ are a lifeform. The chemical is behaving in bees just as it is engineered to behave. See any of the bulletins on Gaucho and its effects on pollinating bees e.g.

  • Martin

    Are there studies being done on affects from other possibilities. For example, could it be possible that climate change may also play a role? And/or sunspot activity (the 11 year cycle)? Perhaps these may be additional ’straws’ pressuring the ‘camel’s back’. Is a more ‘wholistic’ perspective, involving more than pathogens and pesticides, being addressed?

  • sisay

    Dear :All

    How do you do ?

    I am sisay Gobessa ,graduate of Animal Production and range land Management in BSc From Debub University in July 5,2005, currently I am just studying animal production in MSc at Haramaya university and Development Management from alpha university college. I want to carry out my MSc thesis on Challenges and opportunities in honey bee production around Homosha wereda /specific place/ in Benishangul Gumuz Regional State which is one of the nine states that are found in Ethiopia plus I had worked as senior Expert of Animal and Fish Resource Development in Benishangul Gumuz Regional State of Agricultural Bureau from Sept 24-Oct 30,2008.
    During my employment I was the supervisor of bee keeping project that was supported by international NGOs, like WORLD VISION Ethiopia , ZOA and OXFAM GB.

    Finaly my attention is looking for Major advisor or co- advisor,I am ready to hear your kindly reply.

    with regards,

    sisay gobessa
    Haramaya university,P.o.BOX : 282,
    Haramaya EHIOPIA

  • Sisay

    Dear :Dannis van

    How do you do ?

    I am sisay Gobessa ,graduate of Animal Production and range land Management in BSc From Debub University in July 5,2005, currently I am just studying animal production in MSc at Haramaya university and Development Management from alpha university college. I want to carry out my MSc thesis on Challenges and opportunities in honey bee production around Homosha wereda /specific place/ in Benishangul Gumuz Regional State which is one of the nine states that are found in Ethiopia plus I had worked as senior Expert of Animal and Fish Resource Development in Benishangul Gumuz Regional State of Agricultural Bureau from Sept 24-Oct 30,2008.
    During my employment I was the supervisor of bee keeping project that was supported by international NGOs, like WORLD VISION Ethiopia , ZOA and OXFAM GB.

    Finaly my attention is looking for Major advisor or co- advisor,I am ready to hear your kindly reply.

    with regards,

    sisay gobessa
    Haramaya university,P.o.BOX : 282,
    Haramaya EHIOPIA

    I saw your name on DSTV while you are talking about bee keeping.

  • Stephanie

    We have experienced a decline in wild bees due to pesticides sprayed for mosquito control by the city of Tampa, FL. It has affected the pollination of squash in people’s gardens. The flowers just fall off the plant. You have to pollinate them with a little paintbrush to get squash.

  • Linda EdD

    For those of you who recommend starting your own hives, you will be surprised to know that it is actually very easy and not very time consuming. You reap the bounty of larger vegetable and flower productivity as more fruits will be produced. Additionally, there is evidence that eating honey from local bee production may prevent allergic reactions to local airborne allergens.

  • Mary Darling

    Graham White did it get right when he laid responsibility for CCD on the neonicotinoid pesticide. When sprayed it becomes airborn. The airborn particles drift around the world depositing their toxins through rain, sleet, snow, and other conditions. Honeybees are affected world wide despite other countries insectide banning. The active residues from pesticide spraying unfortunately will be part of the planet for a long time and will not be easily irradicated as Dennis Van Engelsdorp suggests.

  • email marketing

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