The First Full Accounting of Colony Collapse Disorder
Kim Flottum’s Daily Green – Jan. 1, 2009
“A new study comprehensively describes the early and late symptoms, the visual signs and the progression of the mysterious affliction decimating U.S. beekeepers.
In a full report prepared by this team to be released in the February issue of Bee Culture magazine, Bee Alert’s Scott Debnam and Jerry Bromenshenk from Missoula Montana, David Westervelt from Florida’s Apiary Inspections Bureau, and Randy Oliver, a commercial beekeeper with real-world honey bee research experience from Grass Valley, California detail the symptoms of CCD with respect to where it hits, and when it hits.
To review what’s commonly known:
Colony Collapse Disorder Symptoms: Final Stage
In collapsed colonies
- Complete absence of older adult bees in colonies, with few or no dead bees in the colony, on the bottom board, in front of the colony, or in the beeyard.
- Presence of capped brood in colonies during time of year when queen should be laying.
- Presence of food stores, both honey and pollen, unless a drought or time of year restricts availability of food resources.
- Absence of pest insects such as wax moth and hive beetle.
- Lack of robbing by other bees
- Robbing and return of hive pests is delayed by days or weeks.
In collapsing colonies
- Too few worker bees to maintain brood that is present.
- Remaining bee population predominately young bees.
- Queen is present.
- Queen may lay more eggs than can be maintained by workers, or is appropriate for the time of year.
- Cluster is reluctant to consume supplemental food such as sugar syrup and pollen supplement.
However, these are the terminal symptoms. By the time colonies reach this point it is far too late to do anything but bury the dead. What’s needed is being able to spot colonies that are in the early stages of CCD. This could be a real plus because perhaps beekeepers could turn them around if they were discovered early enough. Even though they still don’t know the cause, proper and appropriate management techniques go a long way in helping.
Here’s what the team has found:
Colony Collapse Disorder Symptoms: Early Stages
One year out:
Colonies are “just not doing well” with few other visible symptoms. They seem healthy, but have lackluster honey production.
Six months out:
Symptoms are vague and easily missed. Monthly inspections and careful comparisons are needed. Brood nests are slow to expand, with most in a single hive body. Mid-day inspections show bees dispersed in the colony, but this varies. Population growth slows to stops during growing season when compared to other colonies in the same yard. Honey stores remain untouched, bees are feeding on nectar recently collected. These symptoms are difficult to spot due to the careful comparisons needed.
Three months out:
CCD colonies appear slow to grow and are outpaced by non-CCD colonies in the apiary. There is a noticeable population decrease going from 3 to 2 boxes, or 2 to 1, and often the bees are on only a few frames in the bottom box…and they appear restless. Brood patterns are shot gun pattern because of dead brood removal, and honey stores begin to diminish if it’s late in the season, but if early, the honey remains untouched. Routine maintenance goes undone and no propolis seals are noticeable.
One month out:
Usually 8 frames of bees or fewer remain and they decline rapidly. Brood is produced, but can’t be supported, queen replacement is often tried, and abandoned brood is common. Stored honey depends on the season … in summer it may all be depleted, in winter untouched.
Remaining bees fail to eat supplied food or medications, and it’s mostly young bees that remain now, as the older bees are gone. Queens continue to lay excessively, and the colony usually lacks any aggressiveness at all.
14 Visual Symptoms of a Colony with Colony Collapse Disorder
- Just days before its collapse the colony seemed to be strong and fully functional
- Mostly young bees remaining in the hive
- Bees are not aggressive
- Queen is present
- Eggs are present
- Full frames of brood may be present
- Brood may show signs of “shotgun” pattern
- Capped honey and fresh nectar are often present, although not in summer collapses, which are uncommon
- Fresh pollen has been stored in the hive recently, if external resources are available
- Supplemental feed (syrup and extender patties) if supplied, are ignored
- No robbing occurs
- No secondary pests (small hive beetles, wax moths or ants) are found
- No dead bees are noted around entrance of the hive
- Bees do not show any signs of winglessness, paralysis or other adult bee diseases.
Colony Collapse Disorder: Management Notes
CCD tends to travel like a wave through a beeyard, and combining affected and unaffected colonies usually gives 2 dead colonies. Adding a package may help, and may not. There is a time lag until secondary pests will move in … using equipment before that time for more bees is risky and the colony may die again. Once these secondary pests move in the equipment seems fine for bees, too.
The Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder remains unknown, but the diagnosis is getting better all the time.
For the full article with additional information see the February issue of Bee Culture on our web site www.BeeCulture.com.
Thanks to Scott, David, Jerry and Randy”