Historically, beekeepers have observed localized or small-scale colony collapse as a result of various pathogens moving through and exploiting regional honeybee populations. However, in November 2006, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was formally recognized by the international scientific community as a global pandemic. Despite extensive documentation of this tragic phenomenon, there is very little consensus regarding the underlying cause of this serious problem.
Honeybees are susceptible to many parasites including mites, bacteria, fungus, and viruses. In addition to the gamut of biological pathogens, honeybees must navigate a vast number of human-generated chemical insults. Entomologists and ecologists have been working tirelessly since 2006 to disentangle the myriad biotic and abiotic agents threatening the species’ very survival.
Upon studying weakened or non-functioning hives, scientists have consistently encountered one species of virus, making it a marker but not necessarily the cause of CCD. The Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV) has been observed in a very high percentage of symptomatic honeybee colonies in North America. However, the presence of IAPV also has been observed in healthy North American hives. IAPV was first identified and described in Israel in 2004 and may have entered North America as early as 2005 via the importation of Australian honeybees into California to assist in the annual almond tree pollination operation. Some data suggests that these bees were carriers of IAPV. Although the dates of Australian honeybee importation match nicely with the emergence of IAPV in the United States, it is impossible to isolate this sub-species as the actual or only source of IAPV. Other insects that often infest beehives such as cockroaches and the small hive beetle also have been shown to carry IAPV.
The presence of IAPV in otherwise healthy hives leads researchers to believe that a combination of factors probably is driving CCD rather than a single factor. Honeybees are constantly exposed to all sorts of environmental contaminants including pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified pollen and a wide range of chemical fertilizers. In addition to pathogens and contaminants, weather patterns constantly are shifting in honey producing regions like the southeastern U.S.
The issue of CCD is confounding scientists across the globe. The only consensus the research community has established is that they really do not understand the mechanisms causing CCD. We do understand that honeybee populations are threatened in many countries. Honey bees are a keystone species in many terrestrial ecosystems. The loss of honey bees would greatly impact many plant species that rely on honeybees for pollination.
How can you help? The best way you can help North American honeybee populations is by being an educated consumer. You should know and trust the company you support with your honey purchase. By supporting high-integrity honey producers, you also are supporting the noble beekeeper. It is the beekeeper who takes care of the honeybees each day. It is the beekeeper fighting the good fight against CCD every single day. When you purchase honey and hive-inspired products from Savannah Bee Company, you are supporting the honeybee.
Submitted By: Brantley Crowder