Colony collapse disorder, or something very similar, is on the rise again.
Reports are starting to come in that once again colonies in Florida, California and other states are collapsing. Beekeepers are finding colonies that appeared healthy and productive as little as 10 days ago are now nearly empty of adult bees, but brood and (maybe) the queen are still present. Honey, too, is available in these colonies, and once again, opportunists ... robbing honey bees, wax moths or yellow jackets are shunning these unprotected colonies.
These colonies were brought to Florida five or six weeks ago to grow and make honey so they could be divided, or split as the beekeeping term is used. They had already made a respectable crop of wild flower honey and beekeepers were feeling confident that they would use that honey to grow and be large enough to split fairly soon. Many have been disappointed when they looked this week.
Other symptoms are showing up this year that apparently were not observed last year, or more likely werent present last year, adding to the mystery.
Different this time is the discovery of deformed brood ... not-yet-completely-formed baby bees still in their nursery cells, with deformed wings. This is a typical symptom of bees suffering from Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), usually associated with the presence of varroa mites. But varroa isnt present in these colonies. Last years problems made beekeepers keenly aware of the damage varroa can do, and its association with CCD. Varroa control, for the most part, has been pretty good (but more on that later). But DWV can be spread in colonies without varroa, once its established.
Some beekeepers have reported seeing very young bees, those that have just emerged, crawling away from these infested hives. They cant fly, so they just walk away from their home.
Researchers are looking again at nutrition, a major suspect in the immune system breakdown they are seeing in some bees. Stored pollen in the colonies from this past summer, Nosema disease well, actually both Nosema diseases queen sources and yard locations are possible suspects to the sudden awakening of this crisis and are being investigated.
And right now almond growers are making plans for their pollination needs for the Big Event starting in February. Recall that Australian honey bee imports are critical to make up the difference between what almond growers need and what U. S. beekeepers can supply.
Its a fact that more than half of all of the honey bee colonies in the entire U.S. are used to meet the demands of almond pollination in California.
If half are even left, come blossom time.
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