The New CCD
My decades old encounter with CCD mirrored the mysterious bee plagues of the past.
- it occurred suddenly without any symptoms
- hives full of brood, feed and bees were suddenly decimated
- whole beeyards were affected at the same time
- a few hives in a yard would completely escape any effects
- surviving hives wouldn’t rob out affected hives
- the disease would ‘disappear’ as quickly as it appeared
Older literature often referred to this phenomena as disappearing disease.
I moved my bees from a commercial beeyard. Things started off well. But overall it wasn’t a good year.
The colonies shut down after the spotty yellow sweet clover flow. And languished for the rest of the season.
They overwintered poorly. And suffered extensive queen losses.
The New CCD
This season was time for a reboot. Surviving hives were split and requeened. The splits had honey. And were fed sugar and pollen substitute.
I expected they would occupy 2 deeps. And have enough feed to overwinter.
But that didn’t happen. Despite low varroa mite counts, and no initial sign of disease, they continued to languish. As the season progressed:
- they looked and smelled good
- no crawlers, K-wings, spotty brood
- they showed little to no interest in the sugar or pollen substitute even when outside resources were scarce
- hives with frames from the commercial beekeeper eventually developed a non-descript foulbrood disease
- brood volume looked good for the small size of the colony. But colony bee populations didn’t increase with time
Most of the adult bee population gradually disappear without a trace. There were always bees to cover the brood and a frame or two more. But hatching brood never expanded the cluster.
Five frame splits grew to seven frames by seasons end. And those with the non-descript brood disease shrank to four frames.
It’s a slow motion kind of CCD unlike anything I’ve experienced. It’s like the virus impacts Randy Oliver describes in his ‘Sick Bees’ articles in the American Bee Journal.
A New Day
Unlike the old CCD which abruptly appeared and disappeared, slow mo CCD persists. Research indicates that a virus and nosema ceranea are the cause.
What’s a natural beekeeper to do?
What we’ve always done! And that’s to use the same methods that overcame chalkbrood, tracheal, and varroa mites without jumping on a pesticide treadmill.
There will be some negative short term consequences. But if the past is any indication, the long term gains will be worth the effort.