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Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County
University of California
Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County

The Calamity of CCD

Colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious phenomonen characterized by honey bees abandoning their hives, is still with is, and the cause is still mysterious.

Over the past three years beekeepers throughout the United States have reported losing from one-third to 100 percent of their colonies to CCD, says UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology Faculty since 1976 and a noted authority on honey bees.

The bees just vanish, leaving behind the queen, the immature brood (eggs, larvae and pupae) and stored food.

The calamity of CCD.

The queen, in peak season, lays about 2000 eggs a day. The worker bees serve as the nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, heating and air conditioning specialists, foragers, guards and undertakers. They feed their mother (the queen) and their brothers, the drones.  The sisters are their brothers' keepers. The drones' only function is to mate with the queen.

The worker bees pollinate about 100 crops in California, including nuts, fruits and vegetables. They just finished pollinating California's 700,000 acres of almonds.  Now they're  pollinating pomegranates, tangerines, lemons, squash, cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables in orchards and gardens near you.

Bring on National Pollinator Week, June 22-28.

Meanwhile, it's good to see that Häagen-Dazs Häagen-Dazs is continuing to support honey bee research at UC Davis and Pennsylvania State University. Back in February 2008, the premier ice cream brand launched an educational campaign to save the bees and just unveiled a newly updated site.  One of the next projects: the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. Designed by a Sausalito team, the haven will be implemented this summer and publicly dedicated in October.

The haven will be a year-around food source for bees and other insects, such as butterflies, bumble bees and syrphids.  Other goals:  to create a public awareness of the plight of the honey bee, and to educate visitors about bees and the kinds of bee friendly plants they can choose for their own gardens.

Bottom line: let's keep our bees healthy.  Mussen suspects that CCD is caused by a  combination of factors:  malnutrition, pesticides, parasites, diseases and stress. 

If CCD has a face, then two photos can tell the story. First, look at the photo of healthy bees and then look at the photo from an abandoned hive. The  bee antenna poking through an abandoned cell is just plain sad.

The queen bee, the sisters, the brothers, the brood--all gone.

The calamity of CCD.

Busy Bees
Busy Bees

WORKER BEES keep the hive humming. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Abandoned Hive
Abandoned Hive

A SINGLE ANTENNA pokes through a cell from an abandoned hive. Colony collapse disorder is characterized by the mysterious phenomenon of bees leaving the hive, never to return. They leave behind the queen and immature brood (eggs, larvae and pupae) and stored food. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 5:54 PM

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