What is Colony Collapse Disorder?

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the name given to the death of honey bee colonies in the USA through the rapid dwindling of the worker bee population in each affected hive. Giving the condition a name has helped to focus government and media attention on the problem, but is not in itself an explanation of the underlying causes. Although the causes of CCD remain unclear, it is thought to be multi-factorial in nature, with the involvement of pests, diseases and beekeeping methods. Although colony losses have occurred in the UK and the rest of Europe and elsewhere, the causes may not be the same as in the USA.

Are you studying the effect of insecticides on honey bees?

LASI research is not currently studying the effects of insecticides on honey bees. Although the misuse of insecticides can be very harmful to honey bees, the number of insecticide incidents in the UK involving honey bees has diminished greatly over past decades. In the UK, there has not been a confirmed case of honey bee colony loss attributed to the approved use of an agricultural pesticide since 2003. A new class of insecticides, the neo-nicatinoids have been implicated in colony losses, particularly in Europe, but much research suggests that whilst they may have subtle, sub lethal effects, when used as approved they are safe for honey bees. It is likely that the heavy colony losses have been caused by Varroa mites and viruses.

Is climate change responsible for honey bee deaths?

Temperature changes associated with global change are not directly responsible for honey bee deaths. Honey bees are native from Norway and Scotland to tropical Africa, and can cope with almost any climate so long as there are flowers for them to collect nectar and pollen. It is possible that climate change may have negative indirect effects through causing changes in agricultural cropping, the decline of some wild plants or the flourishing of exotic plant species. But climate change may also make conditions better for honey bees in countries like Britain by extending the flight season, and if changes in agriculture result in more flowers.

Are radio waves from mobiles phones to blame for colony collapse?

The stories about CCD and the death of honey bee colonies have resulted in some concerns being raised in the media about the possible role of mobile phones, GM crops, F1 seeds etc. It seems extremely unlikely that any of these play a role. Although bees are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, there is no evidence linking colony losses with mobile phone masts or transmissions. Much work has been carried out over the last 10 years concerning GM crops and honey bees, and there is no evidence that they are harmful. In the USA, the use of GM corn has reduced the amount of insecticide used.