Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has plagued beekeepers since 2006 when it was first reported. In the fallout from CCD, around the time it was first chronicled, adult honeybees simply started disappearing from their hives.
Very few dead bees could be found in or around the hives, and high colony losses ensued. This perplexed beekeepers, as the queen and brood (immature bees), were left behind – a major red flag that runs counter to everything we understand about bee behavior.
Further examination revealed that there were plenty of food stores left, but they were insufficiently attended to by a few adult bees.
Over the years, bee experts have developed a better understanding of why Colony Collapse Disorder happens. Let’s learn about CCD and learn what we can do to prevent it from happening to your bees.
What is Colony Collapse Disorder?
Colony Collapse Disorder is a strange and unsettling phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear. They leave behind the queen, plenty of food, and a few nurse bees to care for the brood. It wasn’t recognized as a drastic issue for bees and beekeepers alike until recently.
The CCD phenomenon goes by a variety of other names, such as:
- Disappearing Disease
- Spring Dwindle
- May Disease
In 2006, there was a serious rise in disappearances that could no longer be ignored. Americans and Europeans came together to rename the issue Colony Collapse Disorder.
CCD doesn’t just affect beekeepers: bees pollinate around one-third of plants consumed by humans, so their environmental service is unmatched compared to other critters. The economic contributions of their activities – let alone their vital support of the natural ecosystem — have been valued at $168 billion US dollars per year.
Given the stakes, CCD is an alarming economic and environmental issue that the entire scientific community must work together to resolve – not just beekeepers.
Why does Colony Collapse Disorder happen?
CCD happens due to a variety of environmental factors that affect bees’ ability to return home:
- Diesel fumes
- Climate change
- Predators and pests
Additionally, bees sometimes need to travel long distances for food. Anything that impedes their ability to traverse the terrain can be detrimental to the hive. If their memory, spatial awareness, learning skills, and senses are disturbed, they will be handicapped, unable to feed, and therefore unable to pollinate.
This explains why the queen and brood are left behind. Unfortunately, hives cannot sustain themselves without the help of a worker bee army. So even though they are left behind in the safety of their beehive home, they eventually die as well.
This combination of events turns into Colony Collapse Disorder. Since these environmental factors and stressors are going to stick around (at least for the foreseeable future), we must figure out how to best avoid CCD outbreaks.
How can a beekeeper prevent Colony Collapse Disorder?
The best thing one can do to prevent CCD is something most of our readers have already done: become a beekeeper!
By creating your own hive or multiple hives, you introduce new honeybees to the local area and raise the population.
There are two main types of individual beekeeping: urban and suburban. Urban beekeepers (also referred to as backyard or hobby beekeeping) keep bee colonies in urban areas, such as on the rooftops of inner-city restaurants.
Suburban beekeepers keep the bee population high in a variety of suburban locations, such as in their own backyard or a local community garden.
DIY beekeeping operations are feasible, economical, and doable for the average person or family for a variety of reasons. They:
- Can be as small as a single hive (potentially building out to multiple hives over time)
- Are generally low-cost
- Are relatively low maintenance (thanks to the hard work of the bees)
- Are great for the environment and create honey for the keeper and his family
Involving your children in this hobby is a great way for them to get involved and learn more about the ecosystem. Generational beekeeping can protect the world from CCD for years to come.
What practices should I avoid to prevent CCD?
There are two main ways to prevent CCD at the individual, small-scale beekeeping level:
- Replace the old comb with a new comb every two or three years to prevent the build-up of harmful chemicals
Avoid unnecessary stress on the colony by adding ventilation as necessary and feeding your bees when they are low on food (try our economical HONEY-B-HEALTHY honeybee feeding stimulant to keep your bees fed and happy)
- Avoid using chemical pesticides whenever possible
- Medicate your bees to protect against Nosema disease (a digestive track illness)
- Replace hive equipment if CCD occurs before restarting a colony
It is essential to practice ethical methods and honor the overall process of beekeeping when caring for your colony. Beekeepers should care about their bees more than their own need for honey.
By respecting and honoring your bees and their needs, you are helping the fight against CCD.
What can I do to make my Garden more Bee Friendly?
A bee-friendly garden is one of the most essential factors in the battle against CCD. A garden that encourages bees to collect nectar and pollen from your own backyard keeps them from traveling long distances and helps the ecosystem at large.
The first step to creating a bee-friendly garden is to fill it with plants that are most attractive to bees. They prefer yellow, blue, and purple blossoms. Some popular additions to your garden might include:
- Tree dahlia
By filling your garden with plants bees love, you are keeping them close to home and helping to save the environment. Avoiding pesticides and using more natural remedies help your bees feel comfortable and safe, and help them to feel more willing to work.
Contact Dadant & Sons, Your Local Beekeeping Experts, To Learn More About Keeping Your Worker Bees Happy!
By following each of these steps to the best of your ability, you can help completely eradicate Colony Collapse Disorder and populate the world with happy, healthy bees.
Dadant & Sons is committed to providing our loyal customers the best beekeeping experience possible, so don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding the care and craft of beekeeping.