The New CCD

My decades old encounter with CCD mirrored many of the mysterious bee plagues of the past.

  • it occurred suddenly without any apparent symptoms
  • healthy, well-feed, prosperous hives were decimated
  • hives full of brood, feed and bees were suddenly left empty of bees
  • whole beeyards would be affected at the same time
  • a few hives in a yard would completely escape any effects
  • remaining hives had no interest in robbing out affected hives
  • the disease would ‘disappear’ as quickly as it had appeared

Older literature often referred  to this phenomena as disappearing disease.

Previously

I had moved my bees from a commercial beeyard to my own location. Things started off wet but overall it wasn’t a particularly good year. The colonies shut down after the yellow sweet clover flow.

They continued to languish for the rest of the season. Overwintered poorly and suffered extensive queen losses.

The New CCD

This season, it was time for a reboot. Surviving hives were completely split up and requeened. The splits had honey and were continually fed sugar and pollen substitute.

From past experience, I expected the bees to quickly expand and by seasons end to fill two deep boxes with enough feed to overwinter on. But that’s not what happened. 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-bwguyescript foulbrood disease
  • brood volume looked good for the size of the colony. But colony bee populations didn’t increase with time

It appears that through time, most of the adult bee population gradually disappear without leaving a trace. There were always enough bees to cover the brood frames and a frame or two more. But hatching brood never expanded the cluster.

Five frame splits without any disease grew to seven frames by seasons end. And those with the non-bwguyescript brood disease shrank to four frames.

It’s a slow motion kind of CCD and unlike anything I’ve experienced before. And it’s just exactly like the virus impacts Randy Oliver is describing in his ‘Sick Bees’ articles in the American Bee Journal.

It’s a New Day

Unlike the old CCD which abruptly appeared and disappeared, Slow Mo CCD appears to persist. Some research indicates that the combination of a virus and nosema ceranea is causing this malady.

How will most beekeepers respond? I suspect much like they did with chalkbrood, tracheal and varroa mites. They will seek some way to treat their hives and much experimentation and illegal chemical use will follow. Then, they will run even faster on the pesticide treadmill with it’s short term gains and long term consequences.

Some have already started down that pathway. A commercial beekeeper I worked for routinely sprays his hives with Fumidil. And that’s a most dangerous practice for both the beekeeper and the honey consuming public because fumagillin is both carcinogenic and genotoxic.

Natural Beekeepers?

So what’s a natural beekeeper to do? What we’ve always done! And that’s to use the same methods that were used to overcome chalkbrood, tracheal and varroa mites without jumping on the pesticide treadmill. There will be some negative short term consequences. But if the past is any indication, the long term gains will be well worth the effort.

-bwguy