Saturday, July 21, 2007

Disappearing Bees -- An Answer May Have Been Found

Way back on April 29, 2007, I wrote a newspaper column entitled, "Disappearing Bees a Cause for Concern in Agriculture." Well, I have some follow-up information on the topic. Researchers now believe they have found the source of the disappeance.

This was printed July 19, 2007 in PlantArk: "A parasite common in Asian bees has spread to Europe and the Americas and is behind the mass disappearance of honeybees in many countries, says a Spanish scientist who has been studying the phenomenon for years."

For background purposes, here is a piece of my column:

A new phenomenon in beehives has beekeepers and researchers buzzing. A breakdown in normal colony structure is causing bees to abandon their hives, said a University of Missouri Extension entomologist.

"They're leaving the queen, which is unusual," said Richard Houseman, associate professor of entomology. “In many hives, there are no bees at all. The broods, or young, remain capped.”

Affected hives also are slow to be "robbed out" by other colonies.

This phenomenon, first identified last fall, is known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

Bee experts are unsure of the cause. Possible reasons include mites, diseases, sublethal insecticides and even the signals from cellular phones and rely towers.

The disorder has been reported in 24 states. Missouri is not on the list, yet.

State entomologist Mike Brown said he hasn't had any official reports of CCD in Missouri. "Everything I have heard has been anecdotal," he said.

Both Houseman and Brown say beekeepers that have hives showing symptoms of the disorder should report their findings to the Missouri Department of Agriculture or the University of Missouri. They will need to complete a confidential survey about the details of their loss.

"It may provide some clues or common threads, such as practices beekeepers should avoid," said Houseman.

One local beekeeper told me he has only noticed one of his hives exhibiting symptoms of the disorder. That hive had no bees. No live bees, no dead bees, just honey.

For beekeepers the situation is scary. Not only can they lose half of their honey crop, but farmers also lose the benefits of pollination. And pollination is what the buzz is all about.

"In some states, the impact (of low bee numbers of pollination) may be large depending on the major crops," said Houseman. "In Missouri, our major crops are corn and soybeans, and they're self-pollinating."

He said growers of fruit and vegetable crops, such as apples, cucumbers and watermelons, may see an impact because those plants are pollinated by honey bees.

Right now Missouri's bee status is unknown. However, honey bees are big business in the state. Missouri ranks 22nd nationally in honey production, with 1.7 million pounds produced annually.

A guide sheet about honey bees is available from the nearest University of Missouri Extension Center or online at .

For the full story on this Spanish research, visit


Post a Comment

Let us know how you have been helped by this article or what you have learned from this story.

<< Home