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Is colony collapse disorder (CCD) over?

Apparently, an increasing portion of the scientific and governmental community concerned with bees believes that it is.

If so, it’s good news. But it isn’t all good news, as Noah Wilson-Rich, founder and chief scientific officer of the Best Bees Company and the author of The Bee: A Natural History, writes in an op-ed column published in the New York Times.

While this is undoubtedly good news, we cannot let it blind us to a hard truth. Bees are still dying; it’s just that we’re finding the dead bodies now, whereas with C.C.D., they were vanishing. Bees are still threatened by at least three major enemies: diseases, chemicals (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc.) and habitat loss. (quoted)

***

C.C.D. created momentum for the greater cause of bee health, of acknowledging the importance of pollinators. We cannot lose this momentum now. Honeybees pollinate more than 100 fruit and vegetable crops that we rely on for food. According to the entomologist Nicholas W. Calderone at Cornell, bees contribute more than $15 billion annually to the economy in the United States alone, and that number soars past $100 billion globally. (quoted)

jpegWilson-Rich points out that we still lose about 30 percent of our colonies each winter. He also makes a number of good points in the article:

  • Migratory beekeeping, which is necessary for sustaining our current system of agriculture, is not good for us and not good for the bees.
  • Our concentration on honeybees has diverted our attention from the many other types of bees (20,000 species in all) that contribute greatly to the pollination that must be done for our food crops.
    • To make our pollination practices efficient once again, we need to pay attention to the data. Just last year, Jeffery S. Pettis of the United States Department of Agriculture and his colleagues published data indicating that honeybees appeared to be getting credit from farmers for work that other bee species were actually doing. We continue to get crops of blueberries, cranberries, cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins, but honeybee hives in those fields are not filled with pollen from those crops. (quoted)
  • The government needs to change its policy of rewarding monoculture and instead start supporting diversity in agriculture.

Wilson-Rich’s article gives us much to consider.

As a beekeeper and a student of bees, I have wondered about the efficacy of the concept of CCD. Bees leaving their hives — for no reason that we humans can discern — is a natural phenomenon. As Mr. Wilson-Rich points out, it happened more than usual a few years ago and now seems to be tapering off. That is certainly a good thing. But we also seem to forget that just because they left the hive doesn’t mean that they died.

We know far too little about bees, and I applaud the writer for making a good case for more research so that we can reach a new realm of understanding about these fascinating creatures.

Key words: Noah Wilson-Rich, The Bee: A Natural History, CCD, colony collapse disorder, beehives, wild bees, 20,000 species of bees, migratory beekeeping, diversity in agriculture, monoculture, pollination, pollinators, acknowledging the importance of pollinators, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc.) and habitat loss

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