Colony Collapse Disorder

Randy Oliver continues his series ‘Sick Bees’ in the American Bee Journal. I’ve just received the October edition and what he describes as his bee’s response to viral problems are exactly what I’ve been experiencing with my bees for the last season and a half.

It’s something completely new in my decades old experience keeping commercial and hobby bees. And that includes classic CCD which I’ve experienced on a commercial scale.

The Old CCD and Viruses

To compare the differences between the old and new I’ll toss in a little history in this post. And continue with the comparison in a future post.

I’d worked commercial bees in southeastern Wyoming during the 60’s. And I managed the same outfit in the late 70’s. It was a non-migratory 1400 to 1600 colony outfit established and run by Cliff Weller a decade before WWII.

  • Cliff ran bees in a conservative and traditional manner
  • He destroyed foulbrood colonies
  • Little to no foulbrood was found when I worked with him
  • Never treated with antibiotics, pesticides, fungicides
  • Left enough stores on the hives to overwinter
  • Seldom feed sugar
  • Maintained stock by splitting
  • No outside queens purchased

His bees were healthy, productive, prolific, over-wintered well and mean as well, AHB’s. Once in a great while, a solitary hive would display the classic virus symptoms just like the old beekeeping books describe.Ā  It might decimate that one hive. But wasn’t contagious and could often be handled by simply requeening the hive.

That’s how and where I learned to keep bees. And working with Cliff, you carried multiple empty boxed. And carried them on the run for more than just a few reasons. šŸ™‚

I ran the bees just like Cliff had decades before me. It worked and it was successful. But in the late 70’s all that changed. I had yards filled to bursting with both bees, boxes and feed after the dandelion flow. Things were looking good.

Then suddenly, in less than three days in some cases, whole yards would loose their bees in the now classic CCD fashion. Leaving hives full of nectar, honey, pollen minus the bees. No piles of dead bees. No crawlers. No clingers. And no bees from the few unaffected hives were robbing the vacated hives.

In less than three weeks, more than half the hives were lost. Then as quickly as the CCD appeared, it stopped and ‘disappeared’.

And what would have been much better than an average 220 barrel plus a semi-load of comb honey year, turned into a hundred barrel year. The worst ever recorded for that outfit at that time.

But I was thankful to get some honey and still have enough bees alive to recoup most of the losses. For three weeks, it didn’t look like I would have either. And I couldn’t do a thing to change the course of events one way or another.

Coming Up – The New CCD

-bW

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One response to “Colony Collapse Disorder”

  1. Trygve Lillefosse says:

    This is a bit puzzling to me, I have heard some argue that CCD migh be “Isle of Wright decease”, or trancheral mite. But then I guess it would have been found out of a long time ago.

    I do not know when mayor bee-imports started, but my best guess would be after the late 70’s.

    If so, this indicates that CCD is a kind of decease that have been around for a long time, and might not spread that easily. Even though it may have devastating effects.

    One of the reasons why it spreads so quick, may bee that the bees in one yard share the same race/bloodline. There may be a genetic resistance to the decease in some bees, but you would not know that say italians deal with it better than the russians.
    If you got it in your yard, you offcourse assume that it will affect all bees, while the beekeeper a few miles away does not notice anything, cause his bees handles the decease a lot better.

    I guess it could also be a strain of a well known decease that gives a new and unexpected result.

    I hope the solution is found soon, so that it can be dealt with straight on. -Instead of hearsay ramblings like mine.:)

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