I know people are interested in the continuing honeybee saga. From a recent press release by Penn State:

“A recent survey by the Apiary Inspectors of America found that losses nationwide topped 36 percent of managed hives between September 2007 and March 2008, compared to a 31 percent loss during the same period a year earlier.

“…the cost of pollination has risen dramatically,” he says. “This year, apple growers paid about $65 per colony, compared with $35 to $45 in the past.” A typical apple orchard requires one colony per acre to achieve adequate pollination.”

Thirty-Six Percent Losses. Damn.
Expect higher fruit prices in the fall, I guess.

Interestingly, only about a third of those reported losses were attributed to Colony Collapse Disorder. Bee loss over the winter is high normally, which has always been treated as a cost of doing business. Now folks are questioning whether it was perhaps something we should have paid attention to sooner…..

Penn State is a focus of research on CCD, in cooperation with MAAREC. Last week, a preliminary report (PDF) was released:

In the Fall of 2007, the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) in collaboration with the USDA-ARS
Beltsville Bee Lab conducted a study to help determine the distribution of various bee parasites and pathogens. Preliminary results from this survey reveal:

1) Nosema levels tended to be higher in colonies collected from CCD-suspect apiaries
2) Mean varroa levels over all sampled colonies were approaching critical levels (9.5 mites/100 bees), but levels did not differ between colonies in CCD-suspect and non-CCD suspect apiaries.
3) Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) was found in 9 of the 11 states sampled, and in 47% of all
sampled colonies.

The preliminary report has a very nice summary of what is known, to date, about CCD and the different suspect causes. Alas, there is still no clear cause. If only it was as simple as this.

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Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. The mention of “Penn State” and “bees” really takes me back. When I was a wee goddess, my dad was doing his post-doc in the entomology dep’t. at Penn State. At the time, they had a huge hive encased in glass…with a tube that allowed the bees to reach the outdoor world. It was completely fascinating.

    I wonder if they still have something like this on display?

  2. http://goesdownbitter.wordpress.com/2008/06/04/bees-disappear/

    I posted about this as well. The 2008 Farm Bill has some funds, but not enough. No bees, no food.

  3. This is such a problem of epidemic proportions and it seems like it is not getting enough press. Just like Goes Down Bitter said – no bees = no food. I am all for being skinny but I do not want to starve. Thanks for putting it out there again.

  4. USDA has some money set aside out of FY 08 funds. The grant should be awarded later this summer:


  5. Hi,

    A note to let you know about this article, a current issue being addressed by the Earth Vision project –

    “Why the Bees Are Dying”

    Using spiritual ecology to bring environmentalism to the next level, the EV project has several current newsworthy items.
    To access them, visit:

    Current Environmental Issues (on the Earth Vision site)

    Thanks for your attention,

    Josef Graf
    Earth Vision + Insight21
    answers for the 21st Century

  6. I’m sorry Josef, but your site looks like total BS.
    I’m more interested in scientific explanations for the loss.

  7. “Attention sooner…” Hmmmm. It’s come to my attention lately that “ecological niches” tend to be the species definers, sort of like cookie cutters with razor sharp edges, while DNA tends to be about as plastic as warm wax. So, wolves tend to be wolves (because their niche is inflexible), while dogs (with all that wolf DNA) tend to be any damn thing humans can imagine. That being, for the sake of argument, so, I wonder if the old skep beehives were more appropriate for “bee-ness” (because they emulate predation better) and whether Lanstroth got it really, really wrong for the long term? Did bees simply outlive the skep millenia because there were so few beekeepers until about 1300 C.E.? Are modern beehives unnatural for bees (like skyscrapers are unnatural for us)?

  8. Actually, there is a lot of discussion about that very topic, and I have something on that…well.
    On the blog somewhere.

    Beehives were designed for people, not bees. I think that’s definately a part of the equation.

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