Honey Bees Still in Trouble

Jul 28, 2011

Honey bees are still in trouble.

University of California scientists hammered home that point tonight during the PBS NewsHour program on the colony collapse disorder (CCD) and the declining bee population.

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology told Spencer Michels of the PBS NewsHOur that "We really don't seem to have accomplished a whole lot (since CCD surfaced five years ago), because we're still losing, on an average, approximately 30 percent or more of our colonies each year. And that's higher than -- than it used to be. Only 25 percent of the beekeepers seem to have this CCD problem over and over and over. The other 75 percent have their fingers crossed and say, 'I don't know what this is, but it's not happening to me.'"

CCD is indeed frustrating, agreed Mussen, beekeeper-researcher Randy Oliver of Grass Valley, and UC San Francisco researchers Joseph DeRisi, Michelle Flenniken and Charles Runkel.

Flenniken, a postdoctoral fellow in the Raul Andino lab at UCSF and the recipient of the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellowship in Honey Bee Biology at UC Davis, was among the team of scientists who recently discovered four new bee viruses, a discovery that may help unlock the secrets of why the bee population is declining.

The team found the new viruses while examining viruses and microbes in healthy commercially managed honey bee colonies over a 10-month period.

"Honey bee colonies, kind of like human populations, are exposed to a number of viruses and pathogens throughout the whole -- the entire course of the year," Flenniken told Michels. "So what this study provides us is a normal, healthy colony baseline of the ebb and flow of the microbes associated with that colony throughout the course of the year."

Oliver, who maintains 1000 hives and who has dealt with CCD, pointed out that CCD is resulting in "new science, new interest and new researchers" studying the mysterious malady.

As scientists delve in the mysteries of what's ailing the bees, they're bound to learn what's causing it. Meanwhile, it's good to see a national news program exploring this topic.

(Read PBS NewsHour transcript. Read more about the declining bee population on Spencer Michels' blog.)

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

eekeepers Bill Cervenka (left) of Half Moon Bay and Randy Oliver of Grass Valley check out a frame in Healdsburg during a bee conference. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Beekeepers Bill Cervenka (left) of Half Moon Bay and Randy Oliver of Grass Valley check out a frame in Healdsburg during a bee conference.. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)