Bee Colony–no crisis–Big Surprise

Would you, after experiencing the constant noise of crisis mongering, be surprised if you heard the bee colony collapse is no collapse at all and bee colonies are doing quite well, thank you?

I did some investigation of the Bee Colony Collapse question in the past, and found some evidence at the time that there was a virus.

This study says–whoa–stop the panic. I like that.

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9 responses to “Bee Colony–no crisis–Big Surprise

  1. What’s most interesting to me is what the global trend shows. The 1990 “dip” was really just a return to normal from the 1980 jump, what the stock folks would call a “correction”. What happened that decade? Anyone else remember a brief fad among the grow-it-yourself crowd trying to raise “organic” honey? It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the few real mass deaths were nothing more than a result of rank amateurs not knowing how to care for bees.

  2. There was also an outbreak of a fungal parasite that turned them into brainless insects – like zombies (no pun intended). Yet that was ignored and climate change was pushed as the reason.

    • The spread of fungus through a hive is often caused by the sort of negligence to which I was referring. It would seem the reason CCD was so hard to diagnose is that there wasn’t a single cause. Hive failure is nothing new. An entire hive disappearing usually has signs before the loss but only trained experts know what to look for. When CCD became news lots of amateur beekeepers reported the “mysterious” death of their hive after the fact, often too late to analyze remains. If it weren’t for the exciting mystery these losses would likely never have been reported. As is often the case with media scares, it turns out there was never anything record breaking about the number of hives lost, there was just a record number of hive losses reported.

  3. The point of the original article ( was that “Although average winter mortality rates have increased from around 15% before 2006 to more than 30%, beekeepers have been able to adapt to these changes and maintain colony numbers.” In other words, it is true that twice as many bees are dying, and beekeepers have had to start more hives to offset this. I think it is still important to figure out why the die-off rate doubled.

  4. As I began following the links provided in the article, I started to wonder what I was missing — the article and a number of its cited sources were saying “Nothing to worry about, move along,” but many more of the reports they linked to contained nothing but the dire statistics listed in prior hysterical news reports. Obviously there’s a disconnect somewhere.

    After follwing enough links to enough different places, I realized what I was seeing. First, one side is focusing on the very real and statistically significant increase in over-winter deaths among U.S. honey bees (depending on the year, between +1.5 – +3.0 times normal/expected) and falling production per hive (56.1lbs/colony in ’12 vs. 72.5lbs/colony in ’05). Second, another side is focusing on the rather more steady numbers of total colonies (2.62mil in 2012 vs. 2.41mil in 2005) and overall honey production (147mil lbs in ’12 vs. 175mil lbs ’05). Third, neither side spends much time discussing the other side’s numbers. (The cited article in Quartz is a notable exception:

    This lack of context on on the part of both parties is misleading in both directions. “CCD,” per se, cannot be real as there is no single factor or combination of factors responsible. However the increased winter die-off IS both real and documented, as is the loss of overall and per-colony production, although there are numerous confounding factors there, most of which pre-date “CCD” by at least a decade, and some by more than 30 years. Beekeepeers have adapted to the increased losses by producing more bees each year, and despite the resulting higher demand for new queens and attendant workers, prices for such have remained stable as production remains inexpensive and demand is easily met.

    Overall, this presents all the appearances of a real event (increasing over-winter deaths) becoming ‘syndrome-ized’ for the sake of ratings and agenda promotion. The end goal seems to be to ignore the fact that the free market (to say nothing of the environment) has already adapted (past tense) while giving the federal government yet another excuse to spend tax dollars while expanding their oversight and control.

    • I usually don’t stop at Wikipedia as an ultimate source, but it can be a useful from time to time. An interesting thing I found there was a much more specific definition of colony collapse disorder than I’ve found at any of the alarmist stories. It would seem there is a mystery to be solved here, but the mystery is less important than advertised and, like most mysteries, the solution is being impeded by a storm of unrelated cases being lumped in. CCD is a diagnosis of exclusion. In about 75% of cases studied, experts were able to determine a known cause. The only thing we can say empirically about the other 25% is that experts were unable to determine the cause from the evidence available. Absence of proof and all that… We have yet to prove there is something new killing the bees.

      I was surprised to learn that the infamous parasitic phorid fly theory was based on a single larva collected from ONE dead bee “believed” to have been a victim of CCD. I guess that’s more evidence than the cell tower theory has. That’s a great example of how an interesting story (mindless zombie bees) spreads way faster than the boring truth.

      The other interesting tidbit was stories of similar rashes of unexplained hive deaths through history. So the bottom line would seem to be that, while there is something as yet unexplained going on, it is not unprecedented. It is not an emergency, and it’s very possible that the cause is entirely natural and nothing new. Where have I heard that before?

      This one is a good read for more info on the topic.

  5. Last summer for some reason, there were very few insects here. Almost none of the usual. However the one species of insects that were normal in numbers and pollinated all of our flowers and vegetables were honey bees.

  6. (S)ave (T) (B)ees!

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