Why Are Bees Disappearing?

December 12, 2014

From: Huff Post/Green

What’s the deal with the Bees?: originally appeared on Quora:
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Answer by Matan Shelomi, Entomology, Biology, Evolution

I [and pretty much all entomologists on earth] have been getting a lot of questions about the honey bees. “Are they in trouble?” “Why are they disappearing?” “How can I help?” Questions are fine, but what annoys me is when I get answers. “It’s obviously GMO’s!” “We must ban neonicotinoids!” “How do we stop the corporations that are killing bees?” Ugh. The problem is that journalism requires sensational issues and simple stories, and most people want to find a single answer for each problem. Biology doesn’t work that way, however, and the truth cannot be boiled down into a single headline.

I’ve just heard a great talk by the venerable Dr. May Berenbaum, a wonderful entomologist and effectively the scientific spokesperson about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the technical term for the phenomenon of vanishing bees. So I present here for you the current state of knowledge on CCD: its history, its causes, and what we can do so stop it.


In 2012 a meta-analysis of the literature and several large scale studies of CCD was done. They could not find a cause of CCD, but did find several indicators that a colony would likely collapse soon. The fungus Nosema was not an indicator: on the contrary, its levels were higher in healthy colonies! Only Varroa and DWV (see above) seemed to be useful indicators, with Varroa being the most important. Recall that there is no Varroa mite in Australia, and no CCD either (though there is Varroa in Asia and New Zealand but no CCD there either). Is the Varroa mite the cause of CCD?

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