Honeybee colony collapses have been around for a while, says MSU apiculturalist

In Delta Farm Press

by Hembree Brandon

Environmental and anti-pesticide activists have made honey bee deaths “the poster child” of their ongoing crusade against ag chemicals, particularly neonicotinoids, says Jeff Harris.

But the Mississippi State University Extension/research apiculturist says pesticides are just a part of the cause of colony collapse disorder, which has wiped out thousands of bee colonies in the U.S. and worldwide in recent years. “I would never say pesticides don’t harm bees — that’s what they’re made to do, kill insects — but at the same time I wouldn’t single them out as the predominant cause of bee losses.

“In the long history of man’s relationship with honey bees, going back to Aristotle, who wrote the first manual on beekeeping, there have been many instances of unexplained colony losses — and many  occurred long before agricultural pesticides came into widespread use.

“There have also been episodes of losses with a known cause.  In the early 1900s, a bacterial disease, American foulbrood, was so contagious that the only way to deal with it was to burn hives that were contaminated. Then, there were gut parasites; Nosema, which wiped out colonies in colder climates; and tracheal mites from Asia, which were devastating in the 1980s.

“In the Deep South in recent years, we’ve had to contend with economic loss of beekeeping equipment by two pests, the Greater Wax Moth and the Small Hive Beetle from South Africa. Both of these pests can overrun colonies weakened by other diseases.  Beekeepers have been confronted with many non-pesticide related situations over the decades that have caused large-scale colony losses.”

Despite all the anti-pesticide hoopla by activists and the mainstream media about pesticides and their impact on honey bees, Harris and other experts say it’s the tiny varroa mite, combined with other pests, parasites, and stresses —including putting colonies of bees on trucks and transporting them thousands of miles around the country to pollinate crops — that have decimated colonies in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere “

Read the rest of the story in Delta Farm Press.

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