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What is Causing Colony Collapse Disorder?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the official title which has been given to a mysterious problem which has been affecting bees all over the world. CCD is characterized by the complete disappearance of worker bees from their hives, leaving the other bees behind to slowly starve to death. The problem has attracted major press because bees are an important part of commercial agriculture, and, frighteningly, no one knows what causes it. Numerous groups of scientists around the world are studying Colony Collapse Disorder in an attempt to figure out the cause.

Everything from electromagnetic radiation to viruses has been postulated as a possible cause for Colony Collapse Disorder, and some scientists suspect that the problem could be caused by a combination of factors, rather than a single issue. The lack of an identifiable cause has farmers worried, since without bees, crops cannot be pollinated, and without pollination, crops will not mature. The empty hives and missing bees all over the world appear to be increasing for no apparent reason despite the best efforts of biologists.

Many theories about the cause center around microbes, bacteria, viruses, parasites, mites, and fungal infections. Beekeepers are already aware of an assortment of conditions which can cause ill health in bees, and some of these conditions are associated with the confusion and die-offs which characterize Colony Collapse Disorder. However, a single pathogen has yet to be identified, although in 2007 scientists intensified their study of the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus in the hopes of finding more answers.

Scientists have also researched various drugs such as antibiotics used in beekeeping and pesticides or herbicides used in agriculture. Pesticides could potentially have a serious impact on bees, since bees are biologically similar to some of the pests which farmers spray for. Herbicides could disrupt chemical signals from honeybees, or reduce plant diversity.

Research on Colony Collapse Disorder has also suggested that common beekeeping practices might also be linked to the problem. For example, many beekeepers move their apiaries seasonally, renting their bees out to help pollinate crops or moving the bees for different climates to enrich their honey. Beekeepers may have also adopted other practices in the late 20th century which could have contributed to the problem.

Researchers have also been looking into the impact of electromagnetic radiation such as cell phone signals on bees, theorizing that it may be confusing the worker bees so that they cannot find their way home. Others have suggested that the widespread use of genetically modified crops may be part of the problem as well.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon172921 — On May 05, 2011

It may be the pollen in them and it may not be digesting right.

By anon74596 — On Apr 02, 2010

I think you may be onto something with the genetically engineered foods.

As we all know, even flowers are being genetically altered to make bigger flowers, or flowers that last longer. Perhaps the genetic change is affecting the bees.

Another thought would be that with the economy down as low as it is, perhaps the bee keepers are cutting costs and not treating the bees as much as they did before. This could make the bees more vulnerable to diseases, mites and lower their tolerance to insecticides.

As far as cell phones confusing the bees' navigation system, anything is possible I guess. But since 1896 there have been recorded patterns of bee populations declining and then later the bees recover and there never has been an explanation.

Maybe it's just nature's way of taking care of itself!

By anon27224 — On Feb 25, 2009

What are the long term effects on our bodies? More important is the effects on our children's health and possibly genetic issues.

I feel the above post could be viable. However, if the cause of CCD isn't discovered soon we will face such a devastating future. I wouldn't want to guess at what will happen. But most likely food shortages and famine in our country (US) then globally.

By anon27058 — On Feb 23, 2009

This is just a thought, how about the overuse of genetically altered plants (corn comes to mind) for livestock. Moreover, the FDA has limits on how much GE food we can consume. It was noted at the time that pollen drift concerning GE corn would never reach or would be next to impossible to cross pollinate our food stock.

Now it's become known that possibly 10% of our corn food stock is from this GE corn.

Perhaps there's a link between the two? Food for thought!

Grow and eat organic only. Everyone needs to take precautions they deem is important! Know your food!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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