Dr. Eric Mussen, from the University Of California, Davis, is one of the researchers involved with figuring out the cause or causes of Colony Collapse Disorder. Hes been quoted extensively because he is the only bee guy in California, if you can believe that. His experience with commercial beekeepers, commercial queen and package producers and commercial fruit and vegetable growers is unequaled in the U.S., a fact his peers recently acknowledged with the presentation of two awards: He was awarded the title Beekeeper of the Year by the California State Beekeepers Association, the largest such group in the U.S., and he was selected the Extension Entomologist of the Year, by the Pacific Branch of Ent. Society Of America. Besides being well respected, hes a heck of a nice guy.
In his most recent newsletter he talks about one of the mysteries of Colony Collapse Disorder he has heard about ... here are his comments:
On three separate occasions I have heard observations of the 'spread' of CCD through apiaries. The first was a San Joaquin Valley (CA) beekeeper who told me that he sees the disease sweep from west to east, through his apiaries, at the end of summer. The second was a report, through Jerry Bromenshenk, that a beekeeper attempting to produce organic honey in Montana has 600 colonies spread around an area far from anything and anybody. A visiting beekeeper places an apiary near the center of that beekeeping area and stays only long enough to take advantage of the honey flow, then leaves. After the visiting hives are gone, CCD starts in the apiaries nearest where the visitor was located and spreads out from the center to the more peripheral locations.
"Another similar observation was sent to by e-mail as 'Catch the Buzz.' (This is a free, very current update of many things bee that you can receive simply by going to www.beeculture.com and clicking on the 'Catch the Buzz' Right Here button.) In this recent email Dr. Bromenshenk again is describing what happens in an apiary as CCD progresses. Among all the other symptoms, this sentence caught my eye: 'In large holding yards, CCD starts at one end and rolls through to the other end like a wave.'
Of all the things that may be involved in driving colonies toward colony collapse, the best one that would fit this 'disorder spread' criteria would be a pathogen causing an epidemic. Pesticides, malnutrition, toxic food, etc. are not likely to affect the colonies in a 'sweeping' or 'rolling' fashion. That sounds like a contagion moving through the colonies by drifting bees. Remember, also, that when losses start occurring, that is not when the contagion is sweeping through. That happened weeks earlier, when all the bees looked healthy.
There are studies being conducted, right now, in which colony samples of bees, brood, and food are being taken from hives every so often and held for future analysis as soon as the monitored colonies start to show signs of CCD. I hope that a specific change is noted, and not just a multitude of changes that lead to the mess that we find at the end of the process.
Dr. Mussens reports, along with Dr. Bromenshenks, have been made, as they say, out of pocket, since funding for both researchers is stretched thin. Some money has been made available to researchers lately though ...
The state of Pennsylvania donated an additional $20,000 to local researchers there, and, in a generous gesture, Joe Traynor, who owns Scientific Ag Co. a pollination brokerage firm in Bakersfield, CA has worked out a deal with the beekeepers he brokers colonies from and the growers he brokers them to, to have each donate a $1.00 for each colony they handle, and made it available to Project Apism, a non-profit granting agency affiliated with both the almond and beekeeping industries for honey bee research. If you are interested, see what they do at www.projectapism.org.
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