In 2006 the phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a sudden and widespread disappearance of adult honey bees from beehives was realized in the U.S. In 2007 a Federal Steering Committee was formed, charged with the task of coordinating a federal response to address this problem and to identify the main priorities for research to be conducted to characterize CCD and to develop measures to mitigate the problem. Despite rigorous research efforts to understand this disorder, losses of hives in the United States continue to be high.
It is estimated that one-third of all pollination necessary for food production in this country is carried out mainly by honey bees. This crop production is worth $20-30 billion annually. This decline in managed bee colonies puts great pressure on the sectors of agriculture that rely on commercial pollination services. This is evident from reports of shortages of bees available for the pollination of many crops.
In October 2012, the CCD Steering Committee convened a conference in Alexandria, Virginia that included beekeepers, scientists from industry/academia/government, and representatives of conservation groups, beekeeping supply manufacturers, commodity groups, pesticide manufacturers, and government representatives from the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
The goals of the conference were to identify current knowledge of CCD, facilitate development of Best Management Practices –BMPs for stakeholders and to identify priority topics for research, education and outreach.
Some of the research highlights include:
· A complex set of stressors and pathogens is associated with CCD
· The parasitic mite Varroa destructor remains the single most detrimental pest of honey bees, and is closely associated with overwintering colony declines.
A Varroa mite is see on the lower part of the bee abdomen.
· Multiple virus species have been associated with CCD.
A condition called ‘string wings’ that usually occurs with high levels of Varroa infestation
· Nutrition has a major impact on individual and colony longevity. Beekeepers and researchers alike believe that land use patterns have changed to an extent where there is less forage available for honey bee colonies. Research is beginning to look at ways to diversify the agricultural landscape to increase resource availability for pollinators.
· Acute and sub lethal effects of pesticides on honey bees have been increasingly documented, and are primary concerns.
· The most pressing pesticide research questions lie in determining the actual field-relevant pesticide exposure bees receive and the effects of pervasive exposure to multiple pesticides on bee health and productivity of whole honey bee colonies.
The CCD Steering Committee plans to revise the CCD Action Plan, a document that will synthesize the information gathered at this conference. It will outline major priorities to be addressed in the next 5-10 years and will serve as a reference document for policy makers, legislators and the public and to help coordinate the federal strategy in response to honey bee losses.
To view the report, which represents the consensus of the scientific community studying honey bees, please visit: http://www.usda.gov/documents/ReportHoneyBeeHealth.pdf