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Honey Bees Disappearing!


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#1 Turtle

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 11:12 PM

I only recently heard of 'colony collapse disorder' and it sounds as if it is getting serious. It was reported on the Coast to Coast AM radio program by Linda Howe, hostess of the Earthfiles.com* web page. Given the...shall we say 'eccentric' nature of the source(s), I went looking on the web for a second opinion or two. A quick web search of 'colony collapse disorder' nets about 25,000 hits. Here's just one: News | Telegraph

Any of you heard of this? Noticed bee loss in your locale? Ever tried to pollinate an apple tree by hand? :thumbs_up

* Earthfiles.com

#2 Jay-qu

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 11:34 PM

actually I have noticed there are less bees in my area.. I hope they dont die off, I love honey :thumbs_up

#3 clapstyx

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 01:20 AM

I live close to a rainforest that has some of the longest surviving life forms in evolutionary history whre the number of species (including funghi and bacteria) is estimated to be over 400,000 types all up. The understanding we have is basically this (although it wont be formally released until its more conclusive).

The egg laying species that "self incubate", and there are many, are failing to reliably incubate because of the seasonal temperature band changes. This has caused a massive drop in regeneration rates across the board. Some species can only self incubate withing a narrow band of temperature and humidty sometimes as little as a 1 degree change is enough to cause complete failure of the that years nesting effort. The flow on effect of that is in the pollination cycles which is doubly influenced because many plant species are flowering at unusual times such that they are misaligned with their simbiotic pollinating agents. Often the simbiotic connection between plants and insects is that the flower attracts a particular species of insect and the insect and since the probabilities are highest in terms of mating chances this is where it most frequently happens. The situation we have is that the insects are at the wrong stage of their maturity when flowering occurs so less eggs are fertilised and less are hatching and this flows through to the next season when less flowers are pollinated and the viability of the host is diminished. It is now a compound problem through the simbiotic matrix and there is now evidence that even the most stable and long lasting ecosystems are now collapsing. The worry is, and this is why it has not been published a great deal yet, is that the oldest species in this rainforest (estimated to cover and represent a span of more than 110 million years of evolutionary development and history) which formed the first simbiotic relationships and so gave survival probability aid to those that followed may collapse. One of the ones in particular that is being watched is the Lepidozamia Hopei, commonly known as the Hope Cycad. This is known to be one of the earliest living represntations of the simbiotic concept. To put you in the picture there is a male and female plant. Thay they produce at most one flower each per year and they reach flowering maturity at around 600 years. The population of flowering age cycads is quite snmall. Probably less than 200 remaining since most of the host forest has now been cleared for sugar cane and housing. This species simbiotically supports its pollinator by in blunt terms creating a place for an annual orgy for a small weevil. Naturally enough both the male flower and the female flower must be in place for a cross over period of about one week when pollination can take place. So you need three parts, male flower, female flower and weevil at the smae time. Now we know that the cycads are now out of sync because of rapid fluctuations from one year to the next when once they were extremely reliable and consistent. What we dont know yet is how much the weevil has been affected yaer on year through the reduction of mating chances and incubation rates. If its population becomes unviable we are in a really serious mess because the simbiotic arrangements will then break off one by one in order of evolution..at least that is the expectation. Both directly and indirectly this affects the quality of existence that us humans can expect to enjoy really for the rest of eternity if it must be mentioned in those terms. Since that discovery funding has been virtually stopped and our primary research organisation in Australia (the CSIRO) has had its head replaced by a person who was previously the marketing manager for a major Tobacco company. Whether thats relevent or not is for you to judge but needless to say that it is not in the interests of our government lead by John Howard to have too much valid science indicating mistakes in their management of the environment because for a long time they have said that the risks were being adequately managed and we we in no danger of an ecosystem collapse. We are now probably beyond the point of facing that prospect and into the time when its happening and there is now way to prevent a more widespread collapse. Obviously its a case of wait and see because apart from expanding the size of the forest to improve its chances of survival there isnt much we can do. Expanding it is basically an impossibility because even the thought of saving the bit thats left from the elements that are degrading it is threatening to the commercial ethos which effectively rules all policy in this country. I would suggest if you want to see a collection of species that still lives as it did 100 million years ago and walk through that kind of situation you should take the opportunity within the next couple of yaers because even the CSIRO expects that in 15 years the core oldest species will be gone. Thats a tough thing for us to cope with here let me tell you. But sadly I think environmental consciousness has failed to grow fast enough and the speed of realistion too slow to change the course of history quickly enough before the ultimate decline.
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#4 Turtle

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 02:23 AM

I live close to a rainforest that has some of the longest surviving life forms in evolutionary history whre the number of species (including funghi and bacteria) is estimated to be over 400,000 types all up. The understanding we have is basically this (although it wont be formally released until its more conclusive).

The egg laying species that "self incubate", and there are many, are failing to reliably incubate because of the seasonal temperature band changes. This has caused a massive drop in regeneration rates across the board. ...

But sadly I think environmental consciousness has failed to grow fast enough and the speed of realistion too slow to change the course of history quickly enough before the ultimate decline.


Good info Clapstyx! When I first heard it discussed they were suggesting systemic pesticides as a cause, however in reading the article I posted in #1 I see this problem is older than systemic pesticides. (I think 'systemic' is the term used, but the reference is to pesticides that stay within the plant rather than just on it.)

As to the honey, while it's a wonderful food, it is the many food plants we use that are only pollinated by bees that are at great risk as well. No bees means no apples, almonds, filberts, etcetera.

As to a 'ultimate decline' I have to say that is rather more a philosophical question than quanitative. Why should environmental consciousness be any different than any social growth, and procede at its own rate? Never underestimate the power of emergent properties. :fluffy:

#5 FrankM

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 06:35 AM

In central CA the major enemy of bees are lawyers.

A lawyer for Paramount Citrus, one of world's largest Clementine growers, sent letters threatening to sue if bees were allowed within two miles of crops.

ContraCostaTimes.com | 12/06/2006 | Orange growers seek to ban bees

Those that grow almonds needs bees for pollination and there is a crossover period between the time almonds need to be pollinated and when citrus blooms. The big corporate growers of seedless citrus are unleashing squadrons of lawyers to drive the bees out.

The absence of bees is spectacular and is referred to as the "colony collapse disorder (CCD)".

#6 Cedars

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 08:30 AM

Theres been several things in the news over the years, showing an impact on bees. I remember talk of die-offs while growing up (before the mites became apparent), around the farming circles and bee keepers in the area I grew up in. Theres alot of variables that can affect a cycle, as some of the other posters have indicated.

The Purdue Bee Hive

It seems to be a combination of things occuring, pesticides, mites, and disease combining for a slow weakening and eventual death of a population. I wouldnt discount genetics and honey bee stocks/breeding being a partial factor.

What is overlooked is the native bee populations, which have shown a strong resistance to the mite/disease troubles that occur with the imported/domestic honey bees. Native bees do not produce the honey like domestics (euro/asian types) do. They dont have hives, (except the bumble bee) and they have different habitat needs.

Can Wild Bees Take Sting From Honeybee Decline?

Wild Bees

The Vanishing (part 3)

I know in my own yard / area during flowering, to wander around and look at all the types of bees and flys pollenating, is amazing. Add to that the many types of spiders that use the flowers as bait. Wow. There is just so much going on each day. Sometimes people dont take enough time wandering about looking at the little things surrounding those fruits/vegetables/flowers do they?

#7 kmcolo

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 10:11 AM

Hour two of the March 9th Science Friday has a segment on the dying off of honey bees. Interesting and disturbing.

Site: [add www then dot] sciencefriday [add dot] com/pages/2007/Mar/hour2_030907.html

#8 CraigD

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 11:28 AM

I can confirm that the last few decades’ North American honey bee die-off described in the Telegraph.co.uk article occurred.

The articles claim that “Experts are at a loss to explain the fall in honey bee populations in America”, or experts widely believe “a new disease, the effects of pollution or the increased use of pesticides could be to blame”. According to a ca. 1990 Scientific American article (I’ll attempt to edit in a reference soon), the cause was thought to be fairly well-understood. The extensive transportation of commercial apiaries (mobile “hive farms”) for crop pollination is believed to have spread bee infesting mites (bugs do, as the old nursery rhyme goes, have smaller bugs on their backs to bite ‘em) and various less understood pathogens, from regions where the bees were resistance to them, to regions where resistance was lacking.

Although the man-maintained hives were impacted, US bee keepers were able to recover, largely by increasing replacement breeding. The native wild-bee populations, however, were devastated. In the opinions of many experts, such as a friend of mine who is a commercial bee keeper, any true honey bee found in the mid-Atlantic US is likely to have strayed from a apiary, or from a wild hive from an escaped queen from one. It’s likely that all or nearly all native wild hives in the US where commercial bee keeping was practiced were wiped out before 1995.

Bee keepers such as my friend responded by voluntarily “regionalizing” apiaries – not transporting hives long distances, but maintaining them locally and transporting them only short distances. There’s some evidence that various honey bees species are making a comeback in areas where they were effectively extinct decades ago, though whether these are resurgences of wild bee colonies, or due to escaped commercial bees, is uncertain.

Nature's response to this extinction was remarkable. Other species, primarily wasps, moved into and took over the ecological niches vacated by extinct bee species. In many cases, these wasps were near look-alikes for honey bees. So, even if bees regain their health, they may have a fight on their hands to regain ownership of their niches

My first conversation with my bee keeper friend was at an outdoor party, where someone had been stung by, and immediately killed, what they described as a bee. I laid out the dead insect, and pointing out its lack of a barbed stinger and fatally detachable poison sacks, explained that it was a bee look-alike wasp. Of course, this attracted my bee keeper friend, who had previously been a bit shy and aloof, who added his professional expertise to the talk. He wound up getting engaged to one of my old friends and neighbors who was also at the party, but that’s another story.

If you see what you think is a bee, check it (squishing it’s the easiest way, but if you’re morally opposed, a high-resolution camera with a good lens should work). If you live in North America, chances are it’s actually a species of wasp.

#9 CraigD

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 11:59 AM

Native bees do not produce the honey like domestics (euro/asian types) do. They dont have hives, (except the bumble bee) and they have different habitat needs.

The classification of bumble bees as bees or wasps is uncertain. Although genetically related more closely to honey bees than to obvious wasps, they share the un-barbed, non-detachable, multi-use stinger commonly associated with wasps. Unlike wasps, however, they’re pollen-gathering honey-makers, not predatory insect-eaters.

Choosing which traits to use in classifying Hymenoptera can be tricky. I think the honey-maker vs. insect-eater distinction is most popular, though harder to determine, as you much watch the insect, not just examine its body, to make that determination (and, I’ve discovered, just because it’s hairy and covered in pollen doesn’t mean it’s not a predator).

A 1970s paper secondary school textbook of mine unambiguously states “bumble bees are wasps, not bees”. Though this may be due to a change in insect taxonomy since the book was written, I suspect it’s more due to poor scholarship on the part of its authors.

Although I’ve been unable to identify the species, my suburban Washington DC neighborhood is home to an insect that looks like a bumble bee, nests in the ground like a bumble bee, but is solitary, makes no honey, and preys on other insects. It’s also fast, seems to have excellent eyesight, and will mess with you!

#10 Zythryn

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 12:19 PM

Fascinating, thank you CraigD for sharing your experiences and knowledge. I heard the Science Friday discusion of this very topic.
I was fascinated how much of our food is pollinated by bees. Amazing what seemingly minor creatures do for us.

#11 Cedars

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 09:28 AM

The native wild-bee populations, however, were devastated. In the opinions of many experts, such as a friend of mine who is a commercial bee keeper, any true honey bee found in the mid-Atlantic US is likely to have strayed from a apiary, or from a wild hive from an escaped queen from one. It’s likely that all or nearly all native wild hives in the US where commercial bee keeping was practiced were wiped out before 1995.

Bee keepers such as my friend responded by voluntarily “regionalizing” apiaries – not transporting hives long distances, but maintaining them locally and transporting them only short distances. There’s some evidence that various honey bees species are making a comeback in areas where they were effectively extinct decades ago, though whether these are resurgences of wild bee colonies, or due to escaped commercial bees, is uncertain.

Nature's response to this extinction was remarkable. Other species, primarily wasps, moved into and took over the ecological niches vacated by extinct bee species. In many cases, these wasps were near look-alikes for honey bees. So, even if bees regain their health, they may have a fight on their hands to regain ownership of their niches


Good Post CraigD, but I just want to take a moment to clarify that the wild honey bees are all exotics to n.america, but there are Native Bees which are not hive type, rather they are solitary nesters (as I understand it). When refering to wild honey bees, one must understand it in the context of Ring-necked pheasant (for example) in that domestic/exotic honey bees can and do escape and establish themselves in the wild. It is the Native bees which show high resistance to the mites and many of the other diseases which are impacting domestic hives in N. America. The native bees tend to be ground nesters which have taken a beating via many farming practices among other issues, such as pesticides.

Heres a link regarding different types of Native Bees:

Pollinating Insect-Biology: Is it or isn't it a bee?

I have a type similar to this in my collection (found via the tear down of an old building, the mud cocoon and lavae in their shells were under the loose shingles), but the bee has more yellow banding:
Knox Cellars Native Pollinators

Another link regarding nests:
Bee friendly: Orchard mason bees aren't just for fruit trees

Do you have any links regarding the wasps that look like honey bees? This is the first I remember hearing of that type of wasp/hornet but maybe its not native in this region. Or maybe I just can tell the difference (thats not a honey bee, even though I dont know what kind of bee it is (when its really a wasp/hornet type).

And there are plenty of flys which mimic the bee in shape and coloring. The spiders (they look like crabs and come in assorted colors) that hunt the flowers will avoid a bee, but take a similar looking fly. Its pretty easy to tell when a spider spots a bee in the flower and the spider ducks down or moves to the opposite side of the petal or stem. Partially due to the wasps/hornets that hunt for spiders too, I would guess.
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#12 FrankM

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 10:03 AM

In central CA the recent abundant "chill hours" has resulted in a rapid bloom period for stone fruit.

Valley Voice Newspaper

It will be interesting to learn how well the short bloom period will be pollinated, considering the reduced bee populations. In my area it is difficult to find bee activity even on plants that are typically swarming with bees.

#13 Turtle

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 12:29 PM

Here's a new report that lays the blame on the electromagnetic cloud our cell phones create. >>>

Are mobile phones wiping out our bees? - Independent Online Edition > Wildlife

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.


Who ya gonna call??? :hal_skeleton:

#14 Peter Parker

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 05:45 PM

Oh noes!!! Thats terrible...Also, I was watching something about Killer bees on national geographic and it seems like their population is rapidly increasing....as well as fire ants.

#15 Cedars

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 08:46 PM

Here's a new report that lays the blame on the electromagnetic cloud our cell phones create. >>>

Are mobile phones wiping out our bees? - Independent Online Edition > Wildlife



Who ya gonna call??? :D


The article was too vague to determine whether there is any reason to believe cell phones have that much of an impact. It states "when mobile phones are placed nearby". What exactly is nearby?

#16 InternationalSpaceAgency

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 09:58 PM

There are two things effecting bees in this regards.

1) Pollution is effecting the bees when they seek food, and is causing a decline in the bees emune system.

2) Scientists who are studying the present state of the Earths magnetic field, are concerned that a magnetic polar shift is underway. This is effecting bee and avian navagation, and thus effecting access "navagation" to food and reproduction areas.

#17 Turtle

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 12:13 AM

There are two things effecting bees in this regards.

1) Pollution is effecting the bees when they seek food, and is causing a decline in the bees emune system.

2) Scientists who are studying the present state of the Earths magnetic field, are concerned that a magnetic polar shift is underway. This is effecting bee and avian navagation, and thus effecting access "navagation" to food and reproduction areas.


Not to over-nitpick, but the word you mean to use Mr/Ms ISA is 'affecting', not 'effecting'. :piratesword: Oh, and it's 'navigation', not 'navagation', and 'immune', not emune.

Since you haven't got my confidence by virtue of your spelling, perhaps you have some links to proffer that suffort your points? :turtle: