You’ve probably heard about how important it is to save the bees. Like all pollinators, honey bees play a vital role in our environment. They help flowers grow and crops flourish, which is why their health and well-being is so important. What exactly are we supposed to save them from, though? Honey bees face a lot of dangers, including mites and parasites, pesticides on crops, and diseases such as foulbrood or nosema. One such danger is a strange phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, otherwise known as CCD. Scientists aren’t sure what causes CCD, which makes it difficult for beekeepers to prevent or treat the problem. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a beekeeper to help protect your local honey bee population. Whether you’re an expert or a new-bee, there are a few things you can do to keep your local honey bees safe and healthy. Here’s our guide on how to prevent Colony Collapse Disorder in your local hives.
What Is Colony Collapse Disorder?
While occurrences similar to CCD have occurred throughout beekeeping’s history, the disorder as we know it came about in the winter of 2006-2007. Beekeepers reported abnormally high losses of beehives to symptoms that didn’t match up with common honey bee diseases or issues. Instead, beekeepers would find a majority of their colony’s population had suddenly disappeared, leaving behind honey reserves, some brood, and occasionally the queen. Beekeepers would also find very few dead honey bees around the hive, which means there was no indicator as to what might have caused the disappearance. While the number of CCD cases has declined over the last few years, scientists have yet to pinpoint what causes this disorder.
How to Prevent Colony Collapse Disorder
Even without a clear explanation of the factors behind CCD, there are a few prevailing theories as to what might be causing these colonies to die out. This means that there are several ways to help prevent Colony Collapse Disorder. Some of the best ways to protect a honey bee colony from CCD is to keep a healthy hive, provide a stable natural environment, and advocate for further honey bee research and protections. Whether you’re a beekeeper yourself or simply a concerned citizen, here are a few ways to help prevent CCD in your local bee colonies.
Avoid Using Pesticides
Many bee experts theorize that pesticides and other chemicals play a role in Colony Collapse Disorder. When farmers and gardeners use chemical treatments on their plants, those chemicals can harm the honey bees that land on said plants in search of pollen and nectar. A category of insecticides known as neonicotinoids is particularly dangerous to honey bees. Neonicotinoids treat the seeds themselves, which means they contaminate the entire plant, from the roots in the ground to the nectar within its flowers. These insecticides are also hard to contain and can easily spread from treated fields or through farm equipment that has come into contact with treated plants. This means that even if a farmer or gardener is careful when applying neonicotinoids or other chemical treatments, they can still cause harm to local honey bees. Instead, try to use natural, bee-friendly pest control solutions and steer away from chemicals in your field or garden.
Start a Bee-Friendly Garden
A strong, healthy hive is better equipped to fight off diseases, infestations, and other issues that might cause Colony Collapse Disorder. One way to sustain a strong and healthy honey bee population is to provide them with an abundance of safe, natural resources. You can create a bee-friendly garden or sanctuary in your own backyard to lend a hand to any visiting honey bees. Plant flowers that are rich in pollen and nectar. Try to grow a variety of plants that will bloom during different parts of the season, so honey bees have a place to forage throughout all of spring and summer. You can also set up a shallow water dish for passing honey bees to visit.
No one can save the honey bees by themselves. As with any important issue, you can gain a lot of progress by getting your government involved. Call or write to your government officials and petition for the banning of neonicotinoids and other harmful pesticides. You can also seek out organizations that are fighting for change within your own community. More funding, research, and protective regulations can help scientists and beekeepers better understand and prevent Colony Collapse Disorder. When you advocate for these things in your local and national governments, you help push your community toward useful and productive change.
Create a Safe Home for Your Bees
If you keep your own honey bee hives, there are plenty of other ways you can help prevent Colony Collapse Disorder. Do your best to provide a stable, stress-free home for your honey bee colonies. This means making sure your hives have proper ventilation and insulation, feeding your honey bees when pollen and nectar are scarce, and preventing other common diseases. Perform regular inspections so you can catch varroa mite infestations or other complications early. This will help you correct the problem, preventing it from weakening your hive and making them susceptible to other diseases. When you use beekeeping best practices to care for your hives, you create strong, stable colonies that have a better chance of withstanding CCD and other complications.
Keep Equipment Clean
Another way for beekeepers to protect their hives from Colony Collapse Disorder is to take care of their equipment. You should always sanitize hive tools, protective gear, and other beekeeping equipment in between hive inspections, especially when symptoms of CCD and other diseases show up in your area. You should also replace old comb with a new foundation every couple of years. This will help prevent any residual chemicals or other contaminants from building up in the wax and harming your colony.
While the true source of Colony Collapse Disorder remains a mystery, these tips and techniques are still a priority for keeping honey bee populations healthy and thriving. Here at Kelley Beekeeping, we provide the tools and resources you need to keep a safe, healthy colony. No matter what issues arise with your hives, we’re here to help you handle it. Check out our supply of tools, hive equipment, and more by visiting Kelley Beekeeping today.