Saturday, November 15, 2008


In 2006-2007, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD was recorded when a worldwide decline in bee population began to occur. North America has been hit especially hard by CCD, but the cause of the syndrome is not fully understood. Some attribute the collapses to Varroa destructor mites, which are small red parasites that attach to the body of the bee, sometimes in the brood stage. Varroa mites can spread viruses such as Deformed Wing Virus, as well as generally weakening the bee. A variety of other parasites and insect diseases have also been associated with CCD, including the fungal parasites Nosema apis, and Israel acute paralysis virus. Another possible cause is environmental change-related stresses, including the effects of climate change, particularly on nectar flow, as well as electromagnetic radiation from cell phones that interfere with bees’ orientation. The practice of migratory beekeeping in the agricultural world also puts stress on the hives. There are many other possible causes of CCD, including pesticides, antibiotics, and genetically modified crops.

Honeybees are not only important for our vegetable gardens, but also for our economy: they are the predominant pollinator for an estimated $15 billion-worth of crops, 90 different species. They are responsible for pollinating about one third of U.S. crop species.

Here's a 15 minute video from 60 Minutes last year about CCD.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Honeybees are here

These honeybees are new inhabitants of the College Prep campus! They live on the hill behind the Rech Room. They are Apis mellifera Western honeybees, a species that is really important for pollination, especially of agricultural crops. Bees all over the world are facing a huge crisis with the proliferation of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a syndrome that is not fully understood.

Luckily, our bees are doing very well so far. You might have seen two beige boxes on the hillside. Inside the boxes are frames that the bees build their comb on. (I will post more photos later.) I got this hive from a beekeeper who goes by K. O. who lives in Oakland. The queen appears to be very strong. We saw lots of brood (eggs, larvae, not yet developped bees), as well as plenty of honey (honey is pictured). You might already know that most bees are female. The males are called drones and they are useful only in mating with the queen, eating, and not being able to take care of themselves (sorry, guys). We have been taking a lot of precautions against Varroa mites, which are associated with CCD that I will tell you about later.

Bees lifespans are measured not in the usual way. K. O. explained to me that a bee lives "50,000 wing beats." So, she said, during the summer this could equal only two weeks, in the winter it is more like four months.