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The purpose of this study is to examine the colony collapse disorder that has been a common occurrence in honeybees. The study looks at the characteristics of this disorder which include the complete disappearance of healthy bees leaving the queen behind in the hive together with some worker bees as well as the young ones.
The paper also discusses the various possible causes for this disorders among which are chemicals such as antibiotics, pesticides and miticides. Other possible causes studied are climate changes, poor nutrition to the bees, inappropriate beekeeping practices and lack of genetically variable bee species.
This study has also looked at the effects of honeybee disappearance in agriculture which mostly affects the reproductive capabilities of food crops since the honeybees contribute largely in pollination activities of plants. The paper has also identified the possible ways of avoiding the occurrence of this disorder. The practices discussed include proper administration of chemical substances by beekeepers as well as good management of the hives. The beekeepers are also required to provide a variety of forage sources to prevent malnutrition.
Colony collapse disorder may be described as an abrupt disappearance of healthy bees which ends up dead somewhere else. It mostly involves the departure of adult bees leaving the queen and some workers behind. There are no cases of dead bees in the colonies or outside the colonies whose bees have vanished. However, the immature bees are present in the hive together with some stores of honey as well as pollen. Their disappearance drastically affects many crops since bees have been the major pollination agent in fruits and vegetables. This causes a major threat to the supply of food since many food crops may not reproduce due to in fertilization.
Chemical contributors to colony collapse disorder
Certain chemicals are feared to affect bees though they do not kill them but rather cause impairments to their growth and development. One of the major chemicals thought to cause colony collapse disorder is neonicotinoids which is a group of pesticides that has been introduced in the recent years. It is not clear how these pesticides affect bees but it is believed that they contain certain chemical that, when the pesticides are applied to plants, gets soaked into the plant to the point of becoming poisonous to bees when they feed on the nectar of such plants causing chronic complications due to prolonged contact.
Some chemicals contained in these pesticides do affect the ability of honey bees to search for food. Others cause the loss of memory in bees causing them to lose their way back home after foraging. More so research has shown that most colony collapse disorder cases have been experienced in regions where these pesticides are being used. This has made some countries such as France and Germany to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid. However, cases of colony collapse have been reported in countries where its use has been banned (Skinner, 2008, p. 19). This has proved that there are other factors that contribute to this disorder.
Beekeepers themselves use certain antibiotics in their hives to kill pests that may have invaded the honeybees. These antibiotics are poisonous and others are lethal and thus they should be used appropriately in such a way that they will only kill the pests and not the bees. This should be based on pharmaceutical directions in administration of correct doses. When incorrectly administered, antibiotics may cause health problems to the honeybees and may even kill them along with the pests (Hadley, 2010, p. 1).
A common pest, the varroa mite, has been a parasite to honeybees transmitting viruses that have caused drastic reduction in the population of honeybees. Miticides such as amitraz and coumaphos have been used largely to control this pest and this has led to the development of resistance by the varroa mite towards the pesticide. In an effort to curb this set back, scientists have developed strains of honeybees that are resistant to the varroa mite.
However, the new strains have not been used widely due to the different characteristics they have to those of the other strains. Just like antibiotics, when miticides are administered incorrectly, they may affect the honeybees to a point of killing them as well. Long time use of miticides leaves a lot of remnants in the bee wax from where toxins can develop and poison the bees. This is because bee wax is not renewed more often like honey and pollen are.
Other potential causes of the colony collapse disorder
Since the disappearance of bee colonies was reported, the definitive cause of colony collapse disorder has not yet been identified. A couple of factors have been associated with the disorder. Undomesticated bees search for food and livelihood in a variety of plant flowers present in their natural habitats from which they get pollen and nectar. On the other hand, honeybees kept for commercial purposes have limited sources from which they obtain nectar. The commonly used crops for commercial honeybees are blueberries and cherries. These bees have high chances of suffering dietary deficiencies as a result of poor feeding. This may lower their bodies’ ability to fight infections (Skinner, 2008, p. 14).
Some commercial beekeepers may choose to hire hives to farmers who need a pollinating agent for their crops after which they return the hives to the keepers. In the process, hives are kept locked up in the transportation vehicles for long periods of time. It is very vital for honeybees to live in an environment that they are familiar with and definitely moving them from one place to another will compel them to disappear from new locations to search for more suitable places. Furthermore, the frequent movement of beehives from place to place would expose them to diseases and infections as they get into contact with others and different environments.
The way in which beekeepers deal with bees may largely determine the fate of the bees. If properly fed, the bees will have no reason to disappear in search of food sources. Some bees when separated from an original hive, they may move wanting to rejoin the rest of the group. In other cases, when hives are combined, some bees may group themselves and move to live separately (Johnson, 2010, p. 12).
Other beekeeping practices such as application of chemicals and antibiotic administration can make the bees go away. Honeybees are also at a high risk of exposure to toxins that are present in the environment. It has become a common practice in the society to treat water sources in order to prevent infections but when honeybees take this water, they may get affected by the chemicals which are toxic to them. Honeybees may also be affected by other chemicals resulting from household and industrial activities through direct contact during their search for food and nectar in flowers or through breathing (Johnson, 2010, p. 13).
Global warming has in the past years caused drastic changes in climate which has affected the ecosystem especially due to rising temperatures. This has caused unusual weather patterns in relation to occurrence of winter, amount of rainfall as well as floods. These changes affects the flowering of many plants in that some may flower early, others late or even fail to flower at all. These changes will affect the availability of nectar and pollen to honeybees which depend on them to survive, forcing them to move in search of available sources.
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Another blame for colony collapse disorder is the unavailability of genetically variable species of honeybees which has led to the depreciation of the queen bee quality and since the queen is used to start a hive, this results to the production of honeybees that are more vulnerable to attack by diseases and pests (Hadley, 2010, p. 1).
There are some pathogens or pests present in the hives that the beekeepers may not be aware of. When these pathogens increase in numbers, the bees flee the hive and never return for fear of being infected with diseases. A good example is the Nosema apis which finds their way to bees’ digestive system.
Out of the many possible causes of colony collapse disorder, the most likely factor that can be associated with honeybee disappearance is environmental changes especially changes in climate where changes in rainfall amount as well as temperature intensity affect the flowering of many plants that honeybees depend on for nectar. Some plants may even be affected to the point of not flowering at all and this causes the honeybees to look for other sources of nectar.
Beekeeping is a very crucial practice in our society. The benefit of honeybees in the agriculture sector should not be taken lightly. Moving of honeybees across the country especially when farmers hire hives, ensures a constant supply of food through the pollination activities of bees. Preventive measures should, therefore, be practiced to prevent the disappearance of honeybees so as to promote reproduction of food crops.
For instance, honeybee keepers should ensure proper administration of antibiotics and pesticides according to pharmaceutical directions. Combining colonies should also be avoided as much as possible especially between healthy and sick ones since they will infect the others. Farmers should consider using alternative methods of controlling pests especially the varroa pest to minimize the use of chemicals which are more likely to cause disappearance of honeybees. For commercial beekeepers, it is necessary to provide a wide variety of forage by planting different flower species at the vicinity of the honeybees.
Hadley, D. (2010). 10 Possible Causes of Colony Collapse Disorder. Web.
Johnson, R. (2010). Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder. Web.
Skinner, A. (2008). Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in Canada: Do we have a problem. Web.