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Honey Bees Dying of Mysterious Disorder

January 29, 2007 - A die-off of honey bees has beekeepers struggling for survival and farmers worried about whether bees will be around to pollinate their crops this year. An affliction recently named colony collapse disorder, CCD, has decimated commercial beekeeping operations in Pennsylvania and across the country. "During the last three months of 2006, we began to receive reports from commercial beekeepers of an alarming number of honey bee colonies dying in the eastern United States," said Maryann Frazier, apiculture extension associate in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. "Since the beginning of the year, beekeepers from all over the country have been reporting unprecedented losses. Initial studies of dying colonies revealed a large number of disease organisms present, with no one disease being identified as the culprit, says Dennis vanEngelsdorp, acting state apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Ongoing case studies and surveys of beekeepers experiencing CCD have found a few common management factors, but no common environmental agents or chemicals have been identified. "Preliminary work has identified several likely factors that could be causing or contributing to CCD," said vanEngelsdorp. "Among them are mites and associated diseases, some unknown pathogenic disease and pesticide contamination or poisoning." The bee die-off is serious because so few bees remain after previous problems. "Because the number of managed honey bee colonies is less than half of what it was 25 years ago, states such as Pennsylvania can ill afford these heavy losses," said Frazier. The National Honey Board has pledged $13,000 of emergency funding to the CCD working group. Other organizations, such as the Florida State Beekeepers Association, are working with their membership to raise additional funding. The important Pennsylvania apple crop, fourth largest in the country and worth about $45 million, is dependent on pollination services provided by commercial beekeepers. In total, honey bee pollination contributes about $55 million to the value of crops in the state, said Frazier. Besides apples, crops that depend at least in part on honey bee pollination include peaches, soybeans, pears, pumpkins, cucumbers, cherries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries.
Environment News Service (ENS)

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