A lot of stories circulate on the Internet and news about a “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) which is allegedly wiping out bee colonies worldwide. In fact, CCD is a real problem facing beekeepers in many places. But the causes aren’t necessarily those that you might have been led to believe they are.
The use of pesticides, in particular, has been blamed for the CCD phenomenon, particularly in Europe. But are they the culprit? And are the bees even dying in the numbers that bee-costumed environmentalists would have us all believe?
In response to a question from a member of the European Parliament, the European Commission earlier this month put things in perspective:
The Commission wishes to clarify that colony collapse disorder (CCD) is not a disease but a specific set of phenomena described, inter alia, by sudden disappearance of adult honey bees from beehives. While it has been described in the US, even there it plays minor role in overall colony mortalities. In Europe CCD has rarely, if ever, been seen. Instead, colony mortalities occur mainly as winter mortalities, characterised by different symptoms.
As such there is no action plan against CCD or specific support for beekeepers affected by it. In fact the situation of colony mortalities in the EU appears to be better than previously feared (1), although mortality is higher than normal in certain countries. All in all, data available do not clearly indicate that the number of honey bee colonies is significantly declining. According to available scientific information, causes for their mortality remain to be multifactorial.
On the other hand, the Commission acknowledges that the protection of honey bee and other pollinators’ health is important and has been active in understanding better and if possible preventing higher than normal colony mortalities and ensuring adequate pollination in a number of ways.
Also, a number of research projects (3) related to bee colony mortalities and health issues have been funded under the successive EU Framework Programmes for Research and Development, which may be of relevance to individual beekeepers.
(3) Among others: Swarmmonitor (http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/105847_en.html), Smartbees (http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/192071_en.html).
We welcome the Commission’s science-based response on honeybee health and hope that it will be reflected in the review of EU policies such as its “precautionary” ban on neonicotinoid pesticides. It appears that ban may have been an unnecessary populist reaction to a serious but also seriously exaggerated problem.