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Bee-ware of the Disappearing Honey Bee

By Mary_RD on Oct 20, 2009 12:00 PM in Tips & Updates
Edited By +Rachel Berman

Here’s a scary thought:  Honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate and nobody knows why.  You are personally affected because bees are the glue that holds modern agriculture together.  Albert Einstein is reputed to have said, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.”  Yikes!

No bees, no honey; no work, no money

Honey bees are vital for pollinating 130 crops in the United States.  That's worth more than $15 billion in annual crop yield.  Some crops are almost completely dependent on the honey bee for pollination. They include apples, almonds, onions, broccoli, carrots, sunflower, cantaloupe, and honeydew.   For instance, without honey bees California’s almond trees would produce 40 pounds per acre, but with bees, production increases to 2,400 pounds.  Overworked American bees are trucked from state to state to follow the crop seasons. California almonds in February, Washington apples in March, and then East for cranberries and pumpkins before reaching the Maine blueberries in May.  Busy bees never get a break.

Buzzed off

During the winter of 2006, when beekeepers checked their hives, box after box would be empty. The beekeepers didn’t find dead bees; the bees were simply gone, except for the queen and a few babies.  The BBC News reported that researchers think the bees died in the fields.  Perhaps they became exhausted or disoriented and eventually fell victim to the cold.  The mysterious disappearance is called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  It has claimed billions of bees around the world.  In the winter of 2006-2007, beekeepers lost 30 to 90 percent of the bees, although losses decreased to 32 percent in a 2008-2009 survey.  Still, the magnitude of the loss remains economically unsustainable.

Still No Answer

No single variable has been found to explain CCD.  Scientists look for pathogens - bacteria, parasites and viruses - and for pesticide residues.  Overall, CCD colonies are co-infected with more pathogens than are healthy colonies, but it is unknown whether the pathogens are a cause or result of CCD.  Apiaries across the world are dominated by a species of gentle honeybee from Italy and that might have diminished the pool of genes that fight diseases.

In 2007, the USDA finalized an action plan for dealing with CCD.  They are analyzing bee samples for unusual factors and conducting experiments to find the cause.  A micro parasite, Nosema ceranae, caused colonies to die-off in Spain, but not in the US.  Neither are pesticides to blame because, as with Nosema, there is no difference in levels between bee colonies that do and do not have CCD.   But cheer up!  This problem is getting better (at least it is not getting worse).  Bee colonies in North America, Europe and Australia have been hit before and still survived.  Meanwhile the race for the cure is on.  And also, perhaps Einstein’s quote is urban legend.

Your thoughts....

Are you troubled by the disappearing honeybee?


"And also, perhaps Einstein’s quote is urban legend."


... or, he could have underestimated the problem!!  Losing bees (and other insects - wasps also do a huge amount of pollination) is a very large problem. 

My neighbor keeps bees and he had one good year last year in the past 4. I do hope scientists find out what is going on. This is pretty terrifying!

Actually this is outdated information.  In the last two years they are saying now that it appears the populations are increasing again. Thankfully :)

They were all in my yard this year!  Seriously.  My bee guy was over 10 times and couldn't get rid of them, so BA humbug, let them all die!

Yeah, aschmidt328's right - let them all die, then in the resulting famine, no more need to count calories! Laughing


I know, the comment by aschmidt328 was so ignorant I couldn't even come up with an intelligent reply.

Another hysteria propagated.   Please read: m

What's warming, polar ice caps melting....get a life!



Karla9405 is right.  This is outdated information. 

Bee colonies are showing full recovery after being treated for the Varroa parasite.

That does concern me. Hysteria or not. it would definitely affect an already unstable economy and price of food. It always does. Domino affect is inevitable. Sign of the times.


What ever happened to the cell-phones-are-confusing-bees theory? I heard a lot about that a couple of years ago, but not much since. It that because it was untrue or because Verizon shut it up? Smile

My kids laugh when I say I remember when calculators first came out.  They cannot believe my TV was black and white and had a dial.  Will they be telling their children someday they remember bees and bananas (which are also in trouble)?

I truly hope not.  I would rather scientists err on the side of "OMG we need to do something now!" than sit back and see what happens.

Fire ants.

whether or not the bees were treated sucessfully by science isn't truly the point... the fact that the bee population is stressed and in need of treatment is scary... they are telling us something about our environment, that it is out of balance. What about the monoculture in our society? What about the rate that our natural forests and fields are being developed for housing? And any amount of ground left over is given over to grass... which doesn't really support any kind of wildlife whatsoever.... do your part, get rid of your lawn.. plant some wildflowers or vegatables.. rban-beekeeping-47101601

Please look at the site above for more information on how

to start your own urban beekeeping. Great info.!  Laughing

"They were all in my yard this year!  Seriously.  My bee guy was over 10 times and couldn't get rid of them, so BA humbug, let them all die!"

Maggie maybe your bee guy was not so good at his job.  I too had a problem this summer with bees that made a hive in the ground and in the siding on my home.  These bees were NOT honey bees.  They were another species that look something like honey bees, but were fairly aggressive.

If you observe where they have their hive and carefully put a small amount of Garden Seven into the entrance the bees will take it into the hive and kill them within hours.  You can get it at your local garden store.  (Please use it responsibly.)

Just something to think about:

Aztecs predicted 2012 to be the apocalypse.

Bee populations started having major problems roughly around 2008.

Einstein predicted that human populations would only exist 4 years after the honey bees fail.

2008 + 4 = 2012

dun dun duuuunnnnnnn 

Maybe they are having a war with the killer bees :-P

i have been concerned over this - who wouldnt bee ? WIth overpopulation already a problem, one billion already starving, just revel in the implications when the biggest fight of our lives is for food.

of even BIGGER concern regarding FOOD availability is this : y-again-discusses-californias-congress-created-dust-bowl

NOTE: Before you ask why you should care about this if you don't live in California, consider that the Golden State is home to nine of the nation's ten largest farming counties. It supplies over half of the country's fruits, nuts and vegetables and over 90 percent of our almonds, artichokes, avocados, broccoli and processing tomatoes. As measured by cash value, grapes, lettuce and almonds are California's biggest crops.

The bees are disappearing...?  Hey!  This is following the same pattern as The Happening!

Just kidding, this is tragic but I don't like bees.  Goodbye!  Farewell!  We'll miss you but not your stingers!

maybe it's all the GMO's....check with Monsanto...what have they done to our crops?

I just recently learned of this problem (or paid attention finally) at the recent LA County Fair. This is a HUGE problem and we really have lots to be worried about. Wish there was something I can do to put in my two cents. We love our fruits and veggies!! I don't "like" bees...scared of them. But, they're part of the circle of life.

The Chicken Littles will always be with us.  Just don't lured into the panicky herd.  Try researching and thinking for yourself for a change.   This weeks flavor is Green or Eco...or sustainability.  Same BS as twenty years ago, just a new name.

The bee population is increasing.  I am sorry for the good news...I realize with a lot of you that doesn't sell well.

I've been hearing this end of the world, left-wing BS for years.  That world renowned intellectual Ted Dansen claimed 21 years ago that the seas could not sustain the population for another 10 years.   We are getting record catches now for three years. 

That intellectual predator Al Gore is still bloviating to naive college students that polar bears are dying off to the point of being endangered when there numbers are at there peak in recorded history.   Earth in the balance was thoroughly discredited when it was first published and for some reason, some people still listen to this quack. 

Btw, the ice caps are NOT melting away...they are shifting and their mass is stable.


A person is reasonable, but people are dumb panicky animals - K to J 'Men in Black'

Yes...the problem in CA is real...thanks to the Eco nuts!

I too am concerned about the collapse of bee hives, but I'm honestly dismayed by the fearful hand wringing and cries of impending doom. Enough with the fear!

The environment changes, each change produces pressures and obstacles for one species or another or one way of life or another. Ask the dinosaurs!

But dinos, didn't have dinokeepers (preceeded beekeepers) and scientists looking into the issues. Congratulations to our beekeepers, researchers, and scientists and god-speed in identifying the issues and solutions.

Original Post by: simolean

Karla9405 is right.  This is outdated information. 

Bee colonies are showing full recovery after being treated for the Varroa parasite.

Hi Everybody,

I cannot agree that this is outdated information because I read extensively for this article.  I did say that the "problem is getting better (at least it is not getting worse)." It's stable.  And as far as "Bee colonies are showing full recovery after being treated for the Varroa parasite", that's true for the bee die-off in Spain, but not for the US.  In the US, treating the Nosema infected colonies with the antibiotic drug, flumagillin, had no effect.  However, I am not saying this is the end for bees because the bees have been "hit" in earlier times and still managed to survive. 

Thank you all for reading and commenting.  Our members make Calorie Count great!


Ditto slimtuc

Good. I'm glad that the situation isn't getting worse. Besides bees being a major contributor to crops, they also make the world around us beautiful. A lot of flowers depend on bees to  bloom.

I can tell you our garden in Pearland, TX (just outside Houston) did not produce this year and neither did many of our friend's. The honeybees are missing from around here and beleive me, I am no chicken little. I do not beleive in global warming or most of the leftist "sky is falling" BS. This is just a personal observation.

I read this yesterday, interesting info on bees.

Heat Forms Potentially Harmful Substance in High-fructose Corn Syrup Newswise — Researchers have established the conditions that foster formation of potentially dangerous levels of a toxic substance in the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) often fed to honey bees. Their study, which appears in ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, could also help keep the substance out of soft drinks and dozens of other human foods that contain HFCS. The substance, hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), forms mainly from heating fructose.

In the new study, Blaise LeBlanc and Gillian Eggleston and colleagues note HFCS’s ubiquitous usage as a sweetener in beverages and processed foods. Some commercial beekeepers also feed it to bees to increase reproduction and honey production. When exposed to warm temperatures, HFCS can form HMF and kill honeybees. Some researchers believe that HMF may be a factor in Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious disease that has killed at least one-third of the honeybee population in the United States.

The scientists measured levels of HMF in HFCS products from different manufacturers over a period of 35 days at different temperatures. As temperatures rose, levels of HMF increased steadily. Levels jumped dramatically at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. “The data are important for commercial beekeepers, for manufacturers of HFCS, and for purposes of food storage. Because HFCS is incorporated as a sweetener in many processed foods, the data from this study are important for human health as well,” the report states. It adds that studies have linked HMF to DNA damage in humans. In addition, HMF breaks down in the body to other substances potentially more harmful than HMF.

Honey bees are not the aggressive stingers, you are thinking of wasps.  

Why are we feeding HFCS to honeybees?  Heck, why are we feeding it to ourselves?  No, don't answer, I know the answer to that one.  When I was a kid, people thought HFCS was *better* for you than sugar.  Nutrition science is still a pretty young field, even though it's SO important.  That's why I'm focusing on nutrition as a vet student; there's really nothing more important to the health of an animal than what you put in its mouth.

Oh Great Aztec King tell his advisors, "Make me perpetual calendar!"  So advisors labor long time with stone tablets and hammer and chisel, carving out perpetual calendar for Great Aztec King. 

Once they got to 2012 their hammers broke!

Original Post by: stevemoss

Ditto slimtuc

It's in Gods hands.

ditto boswell88

I was just checking on the posts. some have taken it lightly some seriously well its way of looking. I believe in one thing

If u play with nature, Nature is going to reply in her own way. I believe the amount of insect resistance plants cration discpurage honey bees to come near and that may be the reason

What's killing all the honey bees? It might be a toxic chemical that's been found in high-fructose corn syrup. Researchers now think this chemical -- dubbed "HMF" -- might be what's killing the bees that pollinate our crops.


So if HMF kills honey bees, what might it also be doing to humans who eat high-fructose corn syrup? Find out in today's story:

Well im afraid of bees, got stung a whole bunch of times at one time. but i still love what they do, i pray they find the problem, we need to save the bees!

I spoke to a local beekeeper who sells honey at our local Grower's Market.  He said that hives here in our part of Pennsylvania have not been affected.  He moves his bees to apple, pear, peach and cherry orchards and the rest of the time they gather from wildflowers, clover and alfalfa.  It's the best honey I've ever tasted.

Maybe this is an old wives tale, but I've been told that eating local honey helps with pollen allergies.  I buy local because I can meet the beekeepers and find out if how they process their honey.  I like to know where my food comes from. 

I hope the situation continues to improve and that our hives recover. 

I am an avid gardener.  I have read so many conflicting stories about this.  I am glad to see some posts suggesting this problem is improving.

I actually noticed many more bees in this area this year. Our crabapple was actually buzzing again this past spring.

A few decades ago when I was a kid there were always bumblebees floating over the clover in our Midwest yard (a real hazzard for bare feet!).   I hadn't seen any in so many years that I almost forgot all about them but for some reason this past summer they were back...  we had about a gazillion of them out of nowhere.   Critters seem to just cycle through that way around here.   Tent worms, lady bugs, earwhigs, boxelder bugs...  there always seems to be a bumper crop of something to replace a disappearing something else. 

I'm waiting for the monarch butterflies to come back!


Original Post by: boswell88

Original Post by: stevemoss

Ditto slimtuc

It's in Gods hands.

It may be in God's hands but it's also in ours. God made us reasonably intelligent and he gave this world to us to care for. I may have taken your quote the wrong way but it feels too passive to me.  Personally I think God wants us to care. 

First the missing bees, now the dying bats from "White nose syndrome", what next?  I live in the Northeast in a rural community in which I  have a number of bat houses.  I have gone from having about 2 dozen bats regularly flying around to about 3 bats.  I'm afraid the spraying they are doing for the Gypsy moths are causing a lot of these problems.  To blanket acres and acres with a pesticide from a plane,  can't be good for man, animal or insect.

Maybe the farmers should stop moving the colonies around to different regions. Bees are like other insects that have their own migration patterns and their own "regions". It seems reasonable that by interupting those migration patterns and moving colonies out of their regions they could be disorienting them and disrupting their natural rythms. Perhaps science should be looking into polination alternatives and leave the bees alone.

Totally agree that the information provided in this article may be outdated.  I saw on the news about the cell phone thing.  Apparently the signals that cell phones send out are screwing with their ability to migrate to the correct location and in turn they get disoriented.  This wasn't an issue up until a few years ago when they changed from analog to digital.

Whatever the real cause, they need to find it and fix it fast or we're all gonna starve!!!

I like what a couple of people said about buying local, gardening, urban gardening etc. It's a good way to stay connected to what we put in our bodies. If we have no connection as in eating pre-packaged, loaded with preservatives, food that is dead or mutated, it leads to illnesses. To deny that we have any relationship to the earth, animals ourselves as living beings is pretty arrogant and ignorant. The name calling some are making about "leftist BS" is a big sign of the problem. People actively choosing to not care, from what I believe, is an illness from not having any connection to other living things. Good luck with that. It's our "Leftist BS" that usually does the work to bail us out time after time.

this is outdated... my neighbor is a bee farmer she said things are picking up for her... this is east coast though i dunno about west coast or the south

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