FAQ¹s Colony Collapse Disorder
What is CCD?
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the name given to the recent and
seemingly most serious mortality of honey bee colonies across US. It is
characterized by, sudden death of adult bees with an absence of dead
bees in front of colony entrances. Honey and stored pollen are usually
present and often signs of recent brood rearing. Occasionally, the queen
and a small number of surviving adult workers are present in the brood
nest area. It is also characterized by delayed robbing and a slower than
usual invasion by common pests such as wax moths and small hive beetles.
What causes CCD?
The exact cause or causes of CCD have not yet been determined. The
results of two large surveys have identified more likely causal factors
and eliminated some unlikely factors (see below).
What is the status of honey bee colony numbers in the U.S.?
Honey bee colony numbers in the U.S.A. have been in decline for decades.
From 1947 to 2005 number of managed bee colonies has decreased by over
40%, from 5.9 million to 2.4 million. Beekeepers with CCD are reporting
losses of 30% to 90%. Losses due to CCD are compounding an already
serious shortage of bees for pollination while the demand for
pollination services continues to increase for fruit, nut and, vegetable
crops, especially almonds. Colony shortages were so critical that in
2005 honey bees were imported from outside the U.S. for the first time
in 83 years since the passage of the Honeybee Act of 1922.
What are the potential impacts of pollinator decline in the U.S.?
The world¹s primary source of dietary energy comes from grains that
depend on wind pollination. Animal pollinated crops include most of the
fruit, vegetable, and nut crops which are principal sources of vitamins
and other essential micronutrients in our diets. It is these crops that
may be impacted by the loss of honey bee colonies. The most obvious and
immediate consequence of honey bee declines is predicted to be an
increased cost in colony rental fees that will be passed on to consumers
of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Bee colony decreases can result in
decreased crop quality and yield, further increasing costs for producers
and consumers. Bee pollination also contributes to forage crop seed
production affecting beef and dairy industries. If colonies die in
sufficient numbers having deleterious effects on pollination, markets
will necessarily respond in ways that are detrimental to the economy.
Who is affected?
As of February 2007, most beekeepers reporting large losses are large
commercial migratory beekeepers (some have lost 50-90% of their
colonies). Surviving colonies are often too small to be rented as
pollinating or honey producing units. Losses have been reported in
migratory operations wintering in CA, FL, OK and TX. However, late in
February 2007 some larger non-migratory beekeepers, particularly from
the mid-Atlantic region and the Pacific Northeast have reported
significant losses of >50%.
When was CCD first discovered?
The first ³report² of CCD was made in mid-November 2006 by a
Pennsylvania beekeeper overwintering in Florida. Soon afterward other
migratory beekeepers reported large losses under similar circumstances.
Reportedly 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.
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. CCD affected colonies are unlikely
to make enough honey for beekeepers to harvest.
Is CCD new?
Symptoms similar to CCD have been described in the past up to 100 years
ago and, high losses have been documented. This phenomenon has had many
names including ³autumn collapse² and ³fall dwindle², ³May disease²,
³spring dwindle² and, ³disappearing disease². It is unknown if the
current CCD condition is caused by the same factors that caused large
losses in the past or, if CCD is a new phenomenon.
Why is it called Colony Collapse Disorder rather than disappearing or
References to the season are inappropriate as there are increasing
number of reports that the condition occurs throughout the year.
³Dwindle² implies a gradual decline of colony population in contrast to
the observed rapid loss of adults. Although the actual rate of adult bee
loss has not been measured, it¹s apparent that previously strong
colonies quickly lose their entire workforce in a matter of a few weeks
and sometimes a few days. ³Disappearing² was deemed inappropriate
because it refers to many other conditions that do not necessarily share
the same symptoms as those of CCD. The word ³disease² is usually
associated with a pathogenic agent.
How do I know if a colony has CCD?
CCD has the following characteristics:
1. The absence of adult bees in the hive, (in some cases the queen and a
small number of young bees are present in the brood nest) with no or
little dead bees in the hive or at the hive entrances.
2. The presence of capped brood (pupae).
3. The presence of food stores, both honey and pollen which is not
immediately robbed by other colonies. Delayed invasion of common hive
pests such as wax moth and small hive beetle in hives left in the field.
What are the early signs of CCD?
In cases where the colony appears to be actively collapsing:
1. There is an insufficient number of adults to maintain the brood
2. The remaining bees seem to be mostly young adults.
3. The queen is present, appears healthy and, is usually still laying
4. The cluster is reluctant to consume feed provided by the beekeeper,
such as sugar syrup and protein supplement.
5. Foraging populations are greatly reduced to non-existent.
What should a beekeeper do if he or she has CCD?
See the CCD information on recommendation (separate document).
What can I do to reduce the likelihood of CCD?
1. Keep colonies strong by practicing good management practices.
2. Don¹t combine dead or weak colonies with strong colonies.
3. Feed colonies fumigillin in the spring.
Is it safe to reuse the equipment from dead colonies?
If it can be determined that bees starved or died due to other benign
reasons, it¹s likely safe to reuse equipment, including honey and pollen
stores. However, exercise extreme caution. Equipment should be aired
thoroughly prior to reuse. Also, seriously consider the best practice of
replacing old comb with new foundation on a regular basis. If you
suspect CCD do not reuse until causal agents of CCD have been
identified. At such a time it may be that equipment sterilization may be
necessary prior to safe reuse.
Who is working on this problem?
The CCD Working Group. For a complete list of the institutions and
individuals involved please visit the CCD page on the Website:
What has been eliminated as a potential cause of CCD?
While these factors have been removed from the list of probable ³causes²
they may increase the risk of developing CCD.
Feeding: The practice of feeding colonies was common among beekeepers
interviewed or surveyed with CCD losses. Some fed HFCS, others sucrose
and, some did not feed their colonies. Most did not feed protein but
some used pre-made protein supplement.
Chemicals: Most used antibiotics, the type, frequency of application,
and method varied. Most applied a miticide treatment during 2006. The
products used and method of application varied.
Queens: Some reared their own queens however, most purchased either
mated queens or queen cells from another beekeeper. Queens were bought
from at least 5 states (California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, and Texas)
and 2 countries (Australia and Canada).
Use of bees: Some beekeepers reported their bees were used primarily for
honey production and others for pollination contracts.
What potential causes of CCD is the Working Group investigating?
Current research priorities under investigation include, but not limited
to the following:
1. Chemical residue/contamination in the wax, food stores and, bees.
2. Known and unknown pathogens.
3. Parasite load in the adults and pupae.
4. Nutritional status of the adult bees.
5. Level stress induced proteins.
6. Reduced genetic diversity and lineage of bees.
For a more complete description of the research priorities, please visit
CCD page found on the MAAREC.org website.
What are examples of topics that the CCD working group is NOT currently
GMO crops: Some GMO crops, specifically Bt corn has been suggested as a
potential cause of CCD. This possibility has not been eliminated but,
CCD symptoms do not fit with expected deleterious effects in Bt
susceptible organisms. For this reason GMO crops are not a high priority.
Radiation transmitted by cell phone towers: The distribution of both
affected and unaffected CCD apiaries makes this an unlikely cause. Cell
phone service is not available in some areas where CCD affected
commercial apiaries are located in the west. For this reason, it is
currently not a top priority.
For further information on bees see:
Bush & Cheney, Behind Bars
Click to see the full signature.