Winter Management: Learning About Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

There is another threat to the bee populations that we do not know much about. Many countries have shown efforts on monitoring bee populations since the first reports of Colony Collapse Disorder emerged. The status of the bee’s lives is still close to endangerment. The US alone has seen a loss of 23% on their wild bee diversity population and common bumblebees species listed recently as endangered. Australia, on the other hand, does not have a countrywide survey of the state of bee colonies. 

What is Colony Collapse Disorder?

The Colony Collapse Disorder is the phenomenon where worker bees leave and disappear. The worker bees leave the queen bee behind with plenty of food, with the brood and a few nurse bees. The disorder was first identified around the American winter between 2006-2007. Beekeepers have reported 30% – 90% losses in their hives. Many of the reported cases shown inconsistent symptoms to the causes of the collapse: 

  • Sudden loss of the hive’s worker bee population
  • Few numbers of dead bees found in or near the hive
  • The queen bee, brood and a few young bees remain while having plenty of honey and pollen reserves

What is the main cause? 

According to studies, bee populations are subdued by ‘sublethal stressors’. These are factors that do not necessarily kill the bees however directly impact their behaviour. The study elaborated that modern agriculture and industries have created many factors that contribute to the damage in bees’ cognition. Substances such as diesel fumes and neonicotinoid pesticides both reduce the bees’ foraging efficiency by tampering the chemical communications in their nervous system. It also disturbs bee nutrition that creates an impact in their brain. Additionally, climate change has been a dominant factor that interferes with the bees’s relationship with the plants that they feed on and pollinate. 

How do we help? 

Upon reports of the risk of bee’s being listed in endangerment, there have been numerous efforts to help preserve bees. Such efforts can also be done in our own homes and backyards. 

  • Planting bee-friendly flowers that provide resources for both native bees and honey bees. 
  • Avoid the use of herbicides, pesticides or any types of poison when gardening. 
  • Build a bee hotel. 
  • Support your local honey producers and beekeepers. 
  • Comply to biodiversity laws. 

Australia is fortunate to be the only country without the Varroa Mite, the destructor parasite that can wipe off a colony in an instant. However, Australia has not yet progressed in terms of banning the use of neonicotinoids in the agriculture industry, compared to its European counterparts. 

To continue to protect the rich diversity of pollinators in Australia, we need to take the steps that are needed to sustain these creatures. After all, they help us survive in this crazy world and that they help us have a future to look forward to. 

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