Colony Collapse Disorder
This Frequently Asked Questions is posted on
the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium
The MAAREC is part or the entomology department
at Penn State University. Their website states:
The focus of MAAREC research has been on
the identification of alternatives to chemical controls and promotion
of less reliance on chemical pesticides for mite control.
With the increased attention to CCD, MAAREC has
also directed its research in this area. This FAQ and their website
can serve as another source of information into the state of CCD.
What is CCD? Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is
the name that has been given to the latest, and what seems to
be the most serious, die-off of honey bee colonies across the
country. It is characterized by, sudden colony death with a lack
of adult bees in/in front of the dead-outs. Honey and bee bread
are usually present and there is often evidence of recent brood
rearing. In some cases, the queen and a small number of survivor
bees may be present in the brood nest. It is also characterized
by delayed robbing and slower than normal invasion by common pests
such as wax moth and small hive beetles.
What causes CCD? Although there
is much attention being given to this situation, it is not yet
clear what is causing the die-off. From two intensive surveys
of many of the beekeepers involved, some potential causes have
been eliminated (see below) and others have been identified as
important to investigate (see below). However, at this point it
does seem likely that a number of factors may be involved.
Who is being impacted? As of
February 2007, many of the beekeepers reporting heavy losses associated
with CCD are large commercial migratory beekeepers, some of who
have lost 50-90% of their colonies. Surviving colonies are often
so weak that they are not viable pollinating or honey producing
units. Losses have been reported in migratory operations wintering
in CA, FL, OKand TX. However, late in February some larger non-migratory
beekeepers, particularly from the mid-Atlantic region and the
Pacific Northeast have reported significant losses of >50%.
When was it first discovered and how
long has it been going on? The first “report”
of CCD was made in mid-November 2006 by a Pennsylvania beekeeper
overwintering in Florida. Soon after the initial report, other
migratory beekeepers reported heavy losses of colonies under similar
circumstances. In subsequent conversations with beekeepers from
across the country, it appears that a number of large beekeepers
have been discovering higher than normal losses compared to the
past few years (although heavy overwintering losses were reported
in 2003-2004 for many northern beekeepers). These losses may or
may not be related to CCD, but it is likely that there may be
Is honey from CCD colonies safe to eat?
To date there is no evidence that CCD affects honey. The impact
of CCD appears to be limited to adult bees.
The beekeeping industry has experienced
heavy losses of colonies in the past. Is this something new?
Symptoms similar to CCD have been described in the past, and heavy
losses have been documented. The condition has received many different
names over the years including autumn collapse, May disease, spring
dwindle, disappearing disease, and fall dwindle disease. Whether
or not the current die-off is being caused by the same factors
that caused heavy losses in the past or if new factors are involved
is not yet clear.
Why is it called Colony Collapse Disorder
rather than disappearing or spring/fall dwindling/disease?
References to the season are inappropriate as there are increasing
reports that the condition manifests itself throughout the year.
“Dwindle” implies a gradual decline of colony population
whereas we are seeing a rapid collapse. While the actual rate
of adult bee loss in populations have not been recorded, it is
clear that otherwise strong colonies can quickly lose their entire
workforce in a matter of a few weeks or even a few days. “Disappearing”
has been used to refer to a host of other conditions that do not
necessarily share the same symptoms as those presently being described.
The term “disease” is commonly associated with a pathogenic
agent. While the definition of disease does have a broader meaning
(i.e. coronary disease), until (or if) such an agent is found
the use of the word “disease” would be misleading.
Should a biological or other agent(s) be isolated as the cause,
the name of this condition will likely be reconsidered.
How do I know if a colony has CCD?
Colonies impacted by CCD have the following characteristics:
• The complete absence of adult bees in the hive, (in some
cases the queen and a small number of survivor bees are present
in the brood nest) with no or little build-up of dead bees in
the hive or at the hive entrances.
• The presence of capped brood.
• The presence of food stores, both honey and bee bread,
which is not immediately robbed by other bees. Invasion of common
hive pests such as wax moth and small hive beetle is noticeably
delayed in dead-out equipment left in the field.
( continued on page 9 )