SciSun: Pollinator 2: Hasta la Vista, Bay Bees?   Leave a comment

Remember the bees we mentioned a few weeks ago, that were acting like ‘Zombees’ because a tiny parasitic fly had damaged the insects’ nervous system? Well, if the possibility of being eaten from the inside out by a microscopic fly isn’t enough stress for our friends the honeybees, there’s another problem entire groups – or colonies – of bees are now struggling to overcome: CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) is a strange situation where as many as 90 percent of adult bees leave the hive – their home – for apparently no reason. The bees leave behind baby bees (larvae); the queen bee (who rarely leaves for any reason, once she’s established a home), and all the honey and food the bees had been working so hard to collect and save. Once the adults leave their home, they act as if they don’t know where to go or what to do, and eventually most of them die.

As you know, honeybees are extremely important in helping plants grow and produce fruits and vegetables we all eat. Approximately one-third of all produce only grows and thrives because honeybees pass pollen between the plants, helping the plants remain healthy and strong; and the rich Northern and Central agricultural valleys, orchards and vineyards of California provide over 25% of all produce for the United States. Without the bees, it would much harder – some farmers and researchers say virtually impossible – for many plants to survive as we know them today. And despite what you might see on TV, factory-made-fruit-flavored gummy snacks aren’t exactly the same as a real apple or strawberry.

The cause(s) of CCD are unknown, and scientists are looking at everything from natural illness; to overcrowding of hives; to pesticides set out for insect pests like aphids, but just as hazardous to bees; to pollution and changes in the environment. Some farmers believe this type of bee-havior isn’t new and is nothing to worry about. They point out years in the past where the bees of one hive or another just ‘disappear’, and other hives always took up the extra work; others say even if ‘disappearing bee syndrome’, as they call it, isn’t something new, it’s probably just a cyclical pattern that hasn’t been recorded or researched.

Honeybee weight USDA WIKI

‘Despite their best efforts, the bees finally had to accept there’s only so much weight you can lose when every meal is honey.’

Commercial honeybees live in large wooden boxes that are provided and cared for by the beekeeper. Each bee hive – their house – is separated into different levels, where the bees construct specialized rooms for nurseries, food storage, living areas, and the Queens chamber. Almost like a little apartment building, for bees. A few West-coast beekeepers who have been carefully watching and studying their bees believe the problem is a type of fungus named Nosema caranae, a unicellular parasite often found in Asian bees. The entire parasite is only a ‘simple’ single cell, but it can withstand extended periods of dehydration and extreme changes in temperature. For hundreds of years the Asian species of honeybee has been known to suffer from this so-small-it’s-almost-invisible invader, but until a few years ago there were no cases of the fungus infecting the European-species bees, the type of honeybees that live in North America. These alert ‘bee-watchers’ – citizen-scientists in their field – have noticed certain hives of wild honeybees seem to be resistant or immune to effects of the fungus, and they might be able to pass the immunity on to the home-body commercial bees. Or even more significant, these wild-living bees who refuse to bee-told how to live, might hold the secret of keeping all honeybees healthy and all hives productive. Because nothing man could ever make, could substitute for the honeybee.


Michonne Says: Bees are really busy. All day they fly from flower to flower and tree to tree and clover patch to clover patch. I don’t even know what they do because they don’t eat the flowers or the trees or the clover. Maybe they’re just looking at the pretty flowers. But they never rest and it makes me tired just to watch them.

Posted February 10, 2013 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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