Honey bee populations have been in serious decline over the last few years. This is one of the most significant problems that we are facing as a society today. Without the honey bee, and other native pollinators, we are headed for an agricultural disaster that could seriously effect life as we know it.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) results when the worker bees of a colony disappear leaving the queen and the young to fend for themselves. Ultimately, the remaining bees are ill equipped to sustain the hive so they eventually die. There is no scientific explanation that supports the cause of CCD, but researchers believe there are a number of contributing factors.
Some theories about the cause of CCD include: losses due to the varroa mite and other diseases or ailments that affect the honey bee, pesticide poisoning through exposure to crops that have been treated, high stress environments created by moving hives across the country to provide pollination services, changes to habitat or the lack of native food species for the honey bee, and any and all combinations of these theories.
The United States Department of Agriculture is leading the government response to Colony Collapse Disorder together with other government agencies and academia. This response team is collecting data to determine the current status of the honey bee population and health. They are also analyzing honey bee samples to determine exposures that could be affecting their health. The USDA is responsible for trying to be able to better understand this disorder so that we can take steps to correct the problem.
Sometimes waiting for governmental intervention and solutions can seem to take forever. Luckily there are local organizations who are doing their part to remedy the situation to the best of their abilities. Burgh Bees is a Pittsburgh based organization aiming to educate beekeepers and promote beekeeping as a vital part of sustainable agriculture in the local community. They offer classes, a mentor program, and support for anyone who is interested in beekeeping, or if you just want to know more about what you can do to help support the local honey bee population.
Remember, the honey bee along with other native pollinators, are the reason we are able to harvest fruits and vegetables from flowering plants. Without them, we would be faced with an enormous challenge for the human race that we may not be able to master. What is a significant challenge for humanity is simply a day in the life of the honey bee. Let’s keep these little workers around.