NC State Bee Specialist Presents Ideas on Colony Collapse Disorder

A “mysterious” disorder is wiping out honeybee colonies worldwide, and one professor is hoping an interdisciplinary presentation will lead to new insight into the origins of the disorder.

David Tarpy, an associate entomology professor and extension apiculturist, will hold a presentation on “colony collapse disorder” at the College of Veterinary Medicine from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Colony collapse disorder is a major issue because it’s killing off species closely connected to our own lives, according to Tar

“It’s important to maintain a healthy honeybee population because they are responsible for about one third of everything we eat. They are indispensable pollinators used in commercial production agriculture,” Tarpy said. “If it weren’t for bees pollinating about 100 of our crops, we wouldn’t have many fruits, nuts and other foods that define the American diet.”

While Tarpy said the disorder has gained a lot of publicity recently, little is known about its causes.

“Colony collapse disorder is a still mysterious syndrome that has befallen many honeybee colonies in the United States, and has made a lot of headlines in the last three years,” Tarpy said. “But the underlying causes are still undetermined.”

Researchers are examining multiple areas of bee health to try to find the cause, according to Tarpy.

“Many different factors affect colony health,” Tarpy said. “The three categories of factors investigators have been looking into are different diseases, such as mites, and other issues as well as nutritional stress, such as how their limited foraging resources might lower nutrition and cause health problems. They also look at environmental contaminants such as pesticides and how they react with the syndrome.”

However, Tarpy said it is often difficult to tell if a colony has lost so many of its members because of colony collapse disorder or one of many other syndromes and diseases.

“Honeybee colonies die for so many reasons and have been affected by many other problems for decades, so some of these symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from other problems that befall colonies,” Tarpy said.

One of the most obvious signs specific to colony collapse disorder is a major loss of adult bees despite plenty of resources and unborn young, according to Tarpy.

“The tell tale symptom of an afflicted colony is that there is a rapid depopulation of the colony in a matter of days–not weeks–and there is left behind a lot of developing young or brood,” Tarpy said. “That’s how beekeepers know it was sudden because someone has to raise the brood.”

Tarpy also said there are other symptoms of the disorder that ultimately rule out other honeybee problems.

“Another sign of the disorder is that there is plenty of stored food, honey and pollen in the combs–showing that the colony did not starve to death,” Tarpy said. Also, any bees remaining, and there would only very few, tend to be either the ones that can’t fly or the queen. This rules out the colony deciding to leave because they’d never leave their queen behind.

According to Tarpy, one of the biggest problems with determining the cause of the disorder is that it is highly unlikely that there is only one cause.

“The convention from those researching this from the beginning is there is no single factor that characterizes colony collapse disorder,” Tarpy said. “It seems pretty evident now that there are different combinations of factors that can lead to colony collapse disorder–and it’s because there are so many different parts that it’s harder to pin down the causes.”

Tarpy said that students who cannot attend his presentation but are interested in learning more should consider taking one of several honeybee courses offered by the University’s entomology department.

For those in attendance however, Tarpy said he hopes this presentation will shed some light on the disorder by examining the problem from different points of view.

“They have people in the veterinary world that have very different views of animal husbandry than entomologists,” Tarpy said. “I hope it will be a good discourse to view a common problem from different angles–from an epidemiological, agricultural, and biological standpoint.”

Source: NC State Technician

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