How Colony Collapse Disorder Works

Colony Collapse Disorder Research

Bees need flowers, so tracking their floral pit stops can help researchers determine how bee populations are holding up.
Bees need flowers, so tracking their floral pit stops can help researchers determine how bee populations are holding up.

Commercial honeybees seem to be at the greatest risk for contracting CCD. Declines and hive abandonments have been noted in other bee species as well. Researchers are comparing healthy hives with CCD-affected hives to try to determine what's causing the phenomenon.

In addition, agriculturalists, apiarists and scientists are trying to find a replacement for the honeybee as the premium pollinator. They're looking to see if other species of bee, like the blue orchard bee, can be primed for the task.

As research progresses, it's becoming clear that while there may still be one elusive culprit behind CCD, it's likely caused by a combination of factors. Because of this, finding an answer becomes a puzzle, as researchers struggle to discover the balance of factors that causes the fateful abandonment of a honeybee hive.

Scientists are toying with some tentative ideas to battle CCD. For example, if IAPV is a major factor, then the curious fact that some bees seem to have incorporated the virus' DNA into their genetic code and developed immunity could point the way to a solution. Immune bees could be bred with other bees, creating a population of protected hives. On the other hand, this could be how the virus causes CCD in the first place, so the idea still requires extensive testing to see if it's a viable option.

Some regions have banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bee colonies. Whether this ban will solve the problem has yet to be seen. Researchers are finding a bevy of chemicals within beehives -- everything from crop pesticides to miticide treatments -- which may be interacting in harmful ways.

Researchers say more samples from around the world are needed to nail down what's causing CCD. For now, beekeepers can best care for their hives by ensuring their bees get all the nutrition they need and aren't being bothered by mites. Some beekeepers may want to minimize the impact of stress. Strategies for reducing stress may include finding better off-season foraging ground and decreasing travel.

Want to learn more about bees and other insects? Continue to the next page and visit the links.

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