The disappearance of colonies is not new to apiculture. What is Apiculture? Simply put it is the raising and maintenance of honey bee colonies by humans to collect honey. Previously these “disappearances” of colonies were known by various names like disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease. It was renamed “colony collapse disorder” or CCD in late 2006 when a drastic increase was seen in the number of disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in North America. European beekeepers observed a similar phenomena in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Similar reporting has also come in from Switzerland and Germany and Northern Ireland.
Why is this a cause of worry?
The impact honeybees have on the human population and the environment is far more crucial than we may think. Agricultural crops rely on honeybees worldwide for pollination that is necessary for plants to give fruits and guarantee reproduction. In fact, bees facilitate pollination for most plant life, including well over 100 different vegetable and fruit crops. Without bees, there would be significantly less pollination, which would result in limited plant growth and lower food supplies.
So, this would affect food production everywhere!
According to the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the United Nations, the worth of global crops was estimated at $200 Billion in 2005. With colony collapse disorder this will severely impact crop pollination and farmers would have to spend a significant amount of money to artificially cross pollinate.
What Are Scientists Doing to Help?
Scientists are not exactly sure of the exact cause of CCD death because there are no bee bodies to examine. They have been working overtime to determine the cause of CCD. Recently, a Harvard biologist published a study directly linking the pesticide imidacloprid. Imidacloprid is a systemic insecticide that protects plants from insects by killing insects by acting on the insect's central nervous system. Still the consensus is that multiple factors are to blame. Scientists are also looking at ways to improve the health of honey bees as a potential solution.
How can we help?
We can all help by simply planting bee-attracting flowers, sponsoring honeybee research, or by even by becoming a beekeeper. Checkout a local beekeepers' association to learn about the care and keeping of honeybees - perhaps you will find a new hobby of beekeeping while helping combat CCD?