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Whidbey Island Washington Beekeeping & Honeybees - Lavender Honey - Green Road Farm - Tim Walsh

CCD – Colony Collapse Disorder

I am going to say, up front, that this entry is going to be about how the framework for CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder may not be the most accurate or comprehensive frame to try understand what is happening. To really understand all of the possible reasons hives might disappear/die/cease to exist, we need to continually think critically and be willing to let go of perspectives to consider new ones.

It is awfully easy to want to believe that pesticides and/or neonicotinoids are responsible for every instance of bee die off or disappearance.  They may be responsible for certain instances and I am not supportive of their use, but, I am more interested in understanding bee behavior. There may be many reason why a hive might disappear.

I was recently in Ireland, specifically Kenmare, Ireland. At a farmers market one morning, I struck up a conversation with a beekeeper who keeps bees in the local mountains. He told me that there is no real use of pesticides there because the only crop they grow is grass. Yet, there are still disappearing honeybees. He thinks it is cell phone technology. At every point in wireless technology, dating back to the 1800’s, there have been reports of disappearing bees. As cell technology grows in Ireland, more and more people he talks with report their hives empty.

I am not saying that I know why hives disappear/collapse etc. but I will say that I have a magazine from the 1980’s called Harrowsmith Country Life that talks about the “Disappearing Honeybee”. This concern has been going on a LONG time, as it is January 2016. The use of neonicotinoids became widely used in the 1990s, long after the articles on declining bee populations started.

I have had lots of hives die and disappear and only one reflects the description of CCD – Colony Collapse Disorder, where most of the bees are gone except for the queen and a few bees tending her.

One person I was talking with suggested that maybe the queen gets Alzheimers and the bees decide she is not equipped to be queen any longer. The majority of bees leave with a few staying behind to care for her.

One idea, to me, is about as good as the next to be honest. None of them are completely convincing and I am completely comfortable with not knowing but seeking to understand.

This last year, 2015, I had all 4 of my hives disappear or die off. I say “disappear” because every single last bee in these  hives were gone. There were no dead bees, no dying bees, no bees left behind. This excludes it from CCD – Colony Collapse Disorder because no queen bee was left behind. They left in October, which is way to late to find a suitable place AND produce honey for the winter.

The hive that died and resembled CCD, was a top bar beehive 75 miles away from the 3 other traditional Langstroth hives. I found a small number of bees and although I was not able to find a queen I believe it is possible she was in there.

I used no medication whatsoever in my hives and I do not treat them for any pests etc. I discovered that when my bees are given a healthy and secure place to reside they are able to fight off the problems that typically arise. I realize now, that my Langstroth style hives were old and almost impossible to defend. Yellow jackets were able to crawl in all over the place and I believe it is possible that they took the dead bees as well as larva. The top bar bee hive was easily defended and I found just a small number of bees although not the queen. It is possible that she was there and I could just not recognize her. I believe that this hive had the signs of CCD.

Here is a video of the yellow jackets trying to get into the hive after I blocked off the entrance.

Here is another video of yellow jackets going after a perfectly healthy honey bee.

 

In so many things it appears that everything communicates in one form or another…cells, proteins,insects animals etc. If we could understand the mechanism of communication in these things we could understand what is going on.

I would love the answers to the questions below.
When bees decide to leave a hive, what is communicated, and by which bees?
Why is the queen left behind?
Why are there attendants attending this queen that is left behind. Why would the worker bees and drones collectively fly away?
Is there another version of swarming, where all of the bees leave (as in CCD)?
Why are the disappearances never recorded on video (as in a typical swarm)?
Do they happen at night?
Where do they go?

 

There is so much we don’t know 🙂

 

 

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