Curiosities: How are the honeybees doing?

December 24, 2012

From: Wisconsin State Journal


by University Communications


Q: How are the honeybees doing? I don’t hear as much about colony  collapse disorder these days.


A: When it made headlines in 2006, colony collapse disorder  alarmed entomologists and beekeepers alike. Entire honeybee colonies were dying,  threatening beekeepers’ incomes and the farmers and fruits that depend on bees  for pollination.


But honeybee colonies seem much healthier these days, said Phil Pellitteri, a  faculty associate in entomology at UW-Madison. “It’s still somewhat  controversial, but the science is essentially saying the disorder is due to a  combination of stress and disease caused by viruses and protozoans, diet and  nutrition problems and pesticides. Parasitic mites are a major and continuing  problem, especially since the bee immune system seems to be less adequate than  previously thought.”


It’s clear that unstressed bees fare better, even if a pathogen is present,  Pellitteri said. “Beekeepers now understand that, and are doing everything they  can to keep the bees healthy.”


Dozens of important crops require bees — especially honeybees — for  pollination. Each winter, almost 1 millions colonies are trucked to California  for the almond crop.


The collapse was most intense among bees that had to endure long-distance  truck journeys to pollinate crops, Pellitteri said.


“These trips are a megastress. Beekeepers have fought this by trying to keep  colonies strong before winter, and making sure the colonies have an adequate  diet,” he said. “Colony collapse is still very complex and threatening, but  overall, the bees are faring better than three or four years ago.”


— Provided in cooperation with UW Communications

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