The colony collapse syndrome
The abnormally high and unexplained mortality of bees started several years ago. This phenomenon was named syndrome colony collapse (in English, Colony Collapse Disorder : CCD). CCD is a great cause for concern and a lot of resources are being invested to combat it. Researchers have struggled to summarize the causes clearly, but there are several main dangers to bees that are linked to CCD.
- Varroa mite
- Apocephalus borealis gnat
- Exposure to monocultures
- Apiary migrations
- Nosema ceranae mushroom
- Neonicotinoid insecticides
Varroa can only reproduce in bee colonies, which means that it is a nemesis particularly well adapted to bees. It attaches to the body of bees and weakens them by sucking their hemolymph (equivalent to blood). Varroa also weakens the bees’ immune systems.
This immunodeficient disease is called varroatosis. Varroa also brings diseases to hives, such as deformed wing virus, iridescent invertebrate virus and the fungus Nosema Ceranea, in a lethal combination. Varroa has spread slowly around the world.
This gnat has been associated with CCD by several studies over the past two years.
It lays its eggs in the abdomen of bees. Parasitic bees behave strangely, go out at night and are attracted to light like moths.
The bee eventually leaves the colony to die. The larva of the gnat then leaves the body of the bee at the neck.
Exposure to monocultures
Monoculture consists of planting a single variety in a large area. This has the consequence of limiting bee nutrition to only one type of nectar. They need to have a diet that includes a variety of nectars and this restriction has negative consequences for their health.
Plants of the same variety tend to hatch together at the same time. This means that bees can only feed for a short time. Therefore, bees have to be moved between different monocultures, which causes other problems.
Many people transport bee colonies across the country to facilitate the pollination of crops (which are often monocultures).
Moving bees has serious health consequences: stress and poor nutrition make them more vulnerable to disease and pesticides. Displacement also facilitates the spread of, and even more disturbing, diseases of varroa mites.
Nosema ceranae is a single-celled parasite that is regularly associated with CCD. It can cause nosemosis, during which it colonizes and damages the intestinal tract of bees.
Nosemosis is not a problem if the bees can regularly leave the hive and do their business. This disease can be prevented or treated by ensuring that the hive has sufficient ventilation. This allows the bees to get out easily and get rid of the parasite.
Neonicotinoids affect the memory of bees, which is particularly handicapping when bees forget the way to return to the hive. Neonicotinoids are soluble in water, they sink into the soil and are absorbed by the roots of plants.
Corn and soybean growers coat their seeds with neonicotinoids using a machine that must be lubricated with talc to expel the seeds. This talc absorbs the pesticide and bees are exposed to it when it is dispersed along with the seeds.
If there are no more bees, there will be no more pumpkins, apples, strawberries, orange juice, almonds or cherries.
Help the bees!
1) Plant flowers appreciated by bees
Plant a variety of flowering plants, and watch out for monocultures and bee movements. Bees will be much healthier if they have a multitude of plants to feed on.
2) Support local beekeepers
Local beekeepers who take care of their bees avoid transporting them across the country. This allows them to settle in one place and avoid diseases brought by other bee colonies.
3) Stop insecticides (or reduce the amounts used)
In some European countries, since December 1, 2013, certain neonicotinoids can no longer be used on plantations appreciated by bees.
These products can still be used on plants such as winter wheat, which is not very dangerous for bees. This is a very good start.
4) Set up a hive for wild bees
It may not seem like much, but all the small contributions can end up making a difference. Pre-built hives give the bees a boost by speeding up construction.
5) Learn more, share your knowledge
Information is vital in order to combat CCD for honeybees and the heavy losses for all bees. This article is just an introduction. Share it with others and find more information on the subject.
6) Contact your MEP, or your MEP
If you notice something problematic in your area, it is very important that the responsible authorities be contacted. It is a mistake to think that you cannot make things happen, because you can. If it’s something important to you, take an active role and contact local authorities.