Honey bees are greatly admired by Ms. Giordano. They are a favorite topic for
her writing and public speakng.

Colony Collapse Disorder is a serious problem to the existence of honey

Colony Collapse Disorder is a serious problem to the existence of honey bees.

Pixabay (modified by Catherine Giordano)

Why Are Honey Bees Important to Food Resources?

Think of honey bees— apis mellifera— as the smallest and most industrious of
farm-workers. As they flit from flower to flower in search of nectar, which
they use to make honey, they transfer pollen from flower to flower. This is
called pollination. Without pollination, many plants would not be able to
produce fruits and vegetables.

How important are honey bees? Think of it this way: one out of every three
mouthfuls of food that you eat came courtesy of honey bees.

Honey bees are not the only insects that pollinate food crops, and some crops
are pollinated by both honey bees and other insects (like butterflies).
However, many crops are pollinated only by honey bees. Here are some of the
foods that we would lose if we lose our honey bees. Are some of your favorite
foods on the list?

A List of Foods You Would Lose Without Honey Bees

Fruits| Vegetables| Other













Black Eyed Peas





Bok Choy





Brussels Sprouts
































Macadamia Nuts





Rapeseed (Canola Oil)



Green beans





Kidney Beans


Sunflower Oil



Lima Beans












Passion Fruit



































In addition to being responsible for the production of our food crops, bees
produce honey. The honey bee hive is a little honey-making factory turning
nectar into honey. The bees make this honey so they will have a food supply in
the winter. They make much more than they need, so the beekeeper can collect
the excess for human consumption.

Bees exist in the wild, but they are also maintained by beekeepers. Some
beekeepers are amateur beekeepers with just a few hives in their backyard.
Others keep bees on a massive scale and rent out their bee hives to farmers
when their crops need pollinating.

If you don’t know much about bees, I recommend that you read another article I
wrote, Inside the Bee Hive, for a basic understanding of bee biology and
behavior before continuing with this article.

What Is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?

Beekeepers are seeing an alarming trend. There is a great honey bee die-off.
It has been given the name “colony collapse disorder” or CCD. No one knows for
sure what causes it.

Colony Collapse Disorder is the name given to the disappearance of most of the
bees from a hive, leaving behind the queen, plenty of food, and un-hatched
brood. You won’t see a noticeable number of dead bees in and around the
hive—the bees have just disappeared.

This phenomena is not new, but it has increased at an alarming rate in recent
years. It is occurring in the United States and throughout Europe.

The collapse of a bee colony is nothing new, but the scale of the problem is
new. In the past, it has been given many names: disappearing disease, spring
dwindle disease, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease. It
began to be called Colony Collapse Disorder in 2006.

Beekeepers have been reporting the loss of about 30% of their colonies each
year. It was particularly bad in 2013—that spring, on average, beekeepers lost
45% of their colonies. Many commercial beekeepers were forced out of business.
Others were forced to raise their rates to farmers for the rental of the bees,
which raised the cost of food production, which raised the cost of food.

Another issue of concern is that beekeepers are seeing some of their queen
bees dying too soon. Each bee colony has one queen. A queen usually survives
for two or three years. In recent years, beekeepers are seeing unexplainable
abrupt deaths of the queen bees. Sometimes the queens die mid-summer, having
survived only half a year. No one knows why.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Pethelpful


Why Does My Cat Sit on My Stuff?


Tips for Home Care for Your Vomiting Cat When You Cannot Visit the Vet


The Top 10 Fastest Dog Breeds

What Causes CCD?

No one knows for sure what is causing this die-off. It appears likely that
there is not one cause of CCD, but several interacting causal agents. There
may be a synergistic effect—one agent alone may not be responsible, but when
the colony is weakened or stressed by one factor, it is less resistant to
other factors. It’s the perfect storm of the bee world.

Bees may be experiencing widespread failure of their immune systems. There are
a variety of factors that could be contributing to a weakened immune system
among bees. It is difficult to tease out cause and effect. For instance, does
a pesticide poison a bee outright, or does it just weaken the bee so that it
is more likely to succumb to a mite attack?

Bees are very dependent on their social, communication, and orientation
skills. Perhaps a pesticide gets a bee confused, like a human gets when he
gets drunk—this could affect the bee’s ability to find its way back to the
hive, or it could interfere with the “waggle dance” that tells other bees
where to find nectar.

It may also be that CCD is a broad designation for different causes. The end
result is the same—the colony collapses, but causes are different for some
hives than for others.

Here’s the Top Ten list of factors that may contribute to CCD. No one can say
for sure which factors, if any, are responsible. It could even be something
that is not on this list. Further, some beekeepers and scientists dispute that
CCD is even happening.

Another issue: Many of these factors have been around for a long time. Why are
they affecting the honey bees (if they are) just now?

1. Parasites, Pathogens, and Pests?

Honey bees have always had to cope with parasites, pathogens, and pests. For

  • Foulbrood is a bacterium that attacks the bee larva.
  • Tracheal mites attack the breathing tubes of the adult bees.
  • Small hive beetles destroy the honeycombs and contaminate the honey, causing it to ferment. Bees will often abandon a hive that has become infested with these beetles.
  • Another culprit is Varroa mites— Varroa destructor.

Varroa mites immigrated to the United States sometime in the ’80s. These mites
attach themselves to a honeybee’s body and suck its blood, which kills many
bees and spreads disease to others. The mites can spread from one colony to
another, wiping out whole populations of honey bees.

Pesticides and environmental toxins might be contributing to the death of
honey bees and to colony collapse disorder.

Pesticides and environmental toxins might be contributing to the death of
honey bees and to colony collapse disorder.

Pixabay (modified by Catherine Giordano)

2. Pesticides?

The use of pesticides often gets a large share of the blame for CCD. A
commonly used type of pesticide—neonicotinoids—is considered safe for humans,
but it may be extremely harmful to bees. (They have been banned in some
European countries.)

However, the role of neonicotinoids is under debate. Some scientists say that
the levels of neonicotinoids are not high enough in the environment to be
responsible for the die-offs. It has been suggested that the pesticides don’t
kill the bees outright, but impair their development and behavior or weaken
them to the point where they are susceptible to other stressors.

3. Environmental Toxins?

In addition to pesticides, there are a lot of other toxins in the environment.
Fertilizer run off may have contaminated the water supply.

Perhaps bees come into contact with or inhale other toxins from household or
industrial sources while they are out foraging.

No specific toxins have been identified, but this possibility should be
investigated further.

Climate change may be contributing to the death of honey bees and to colony
collapse disorder.

Climate change may be contributing to the death of honey bees and to colony
collapse disorder.

Pixabay (modified by Cathrine Giordano)

4. Climate Change?

Climate change has been causing extremely cold winters and scorching summers,
as well as extreme droughts and floods. These climate extremes can stress the
honey bees, leaving them more susceptible to the other environmental

Climate change also affects flowering plants that the bees depend upon. For
instance, they may bloom too early before young honey bees can fly. Plants
under stress from climate change may produce few or no flowers, which limits
the bee’s source of nectar.

5. Inadequate Nutrition?

Bees need a varied diet of different pollens. While they go about collecting
nectar, they also collect pollen. They store the pollen in little “pockets” on
their legs called pollen baskets and take it back to the hive. They mix it
with honey to make bee bread. This is another source of food for the bees
during the winter. If bees cannot get enough pollen, or enough different types
of pollen, this can contribute to malnutrition.

Monoculture, the practice of planting only one type of food crop, may limit
the bees’ ability to have a varied diet.

Genetically modified crops and monoculture farming may be contributing to
the death of honey bees and to colony collapse disorder.

Genetically modified crops and monoculture farming may be contributing to the
death of honey bees and to colony collapse disorder.

Pixabay (modified by Catherine Giordano)

6. Genetically Modified Crops?

Some suggest that the pollen from genetically modified crops—especially corn
altered to produce Bt toxin that targets the bacteria that attacks corn—might
be weakening the bees’ immune system.

7. A Lack of Genetic Diversity?

Some think that a lack of genetic diversity may be weakening bees.

Bees are a business. Many beekeepers start hives by buying a queen bee. Nearly
all of the bees in the United States are descended from a limited number of
queen bee lines. (There are a few hundred lines, but perhaps this is not
enough to produce sufficient diversity.)

It is suggested that the limited gene pool may be the reason for degradation
of the bees’ immune system and ability to survive.

Some beekeeping practices may be contributing to the death of honey bees and
to colony collapse disorder.

Some beekeeping practices may be contributing to the death of honey bees and
to colony collapse disorder.

Michael Gäbler [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org)] and Pixabay (Modified
by C. Giordano)

8. Migratory Beekeeping?

It’s the case of the traveling beehives. Commercial beekeepers stack their
hives onto tractor trailers and drive them thousands of miles away so they can
be set up near the fields of farmers who need them for pollination. A crucial
part of hive life is the bees’ orientation to their hive. Having the hive
moved every few months must be very difficult for the bees. (Even people don’t
like relocating and adapting to a new neighborhood.)

Additionally, moving the hives around can help spread disease. An infected
hive can spread disease when it intermingles in the fields with the local
honey bees.

9. Poor Beekeeping Practices?

The various chemicals introduced into the hive to control disease and keep
bees healthy might be upsetting the delicate balance of their immune systems.

Sometimes beekeepers split or combine hives, and this could disrupt the social
cohesion of the bee colony.

Some beekeepers may supplement the bees’ food supply with sugar water or high
fructose corn syrup solutions when flowers that provide the nectar that bees
ordinarily use to make honey are out of season. This may not be healthy for
the bees.

I’m reminded of a line from an old commercial—“It’s not nice to fool Mother

Electromagnetic radiation may be contributing to the death of honey bees and
to colony collapse disorder.

Electromagnetic radiation may be contributing to the death of honey bees and
to colony collapse disorder.

Pixabay (modified by Catherine Giordano)

10. Electromagnetic Radiation?

Are cell phones driving the bees crazy? ****One theory is that the presence of
electromagnetic fields from cell phone towers disrupts the bees’ ability to
find their way home.

Presently, this theory is given very little credence in the scientific
community. But it may be worth further investigation in view of the major role
electromagnetic fields play in the life of honey bees.

  • Bees can detect the electrical field of flowers. They can “read” the nectar and pollen content of the flower.
  • Bee bodies become electrically charged while flying. When they alight on a flower, this charge causes the pollen to “fly” from the flower and become attached to their bodies.
  • When a bee does her waggle dance, she gives off an electrical field that the other honey bees can detect with their antennae.

Some say that the electromagnetic fields produced by our technologies are not
a threat to bees because they operate on a different frequency than those
produced by the bees and flowers. Others have done experiments showing the
possibility of an effect. Studies going back to 2008 have found that bees are
repelled by cell phone signals or have acted erratically around cell phones as
if confused by the signals.

There is not enough evidence to say if this blanket of electromagnetic
radiation that our communication technologies have created is contributing to
CCD, but it is an intriguing theory. The time period matches up. CCD began
increasing as cell phone use started to become widespread. Coincidence or
cause and effect?

You can help save the bees by planning a garden and buying

You can help save the bees by planning a garden and buying organic.


What Can Be Done to Prevent or Mitigate CCD?

The United States Department of Agriculture and some independent researchers
have been studying the problem. The consensus of the research is that a
variety of factors are responsible, acting in concert to stress and weaken the
bees’ immune systems.

As individuals, we can help by planting flowers and encouraging local
governments to provide spaces for wild flowers in our communities. Many
locales are allowing wild flowers to grow in medians and along the side of
roads instead of mowing them down.

We can become eco-activists to help prevent climate change and the use of
toxic chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers that pollute the environment.

We can buy organic fruits and vegetables, especially from local farmers, to
help promote earth-friendly farming. Buy organic honey in order to support
beekeepers who use best practices in the production of honey. (This honey also
tastes better.)

You can also consider becoming an amateur beekeeper and follow best practices
for beekeeping. Check the internet for a local Beekeepers Association to help
you get started. It is a great way to get children interested in, and informed
about, the life sciences.


  • United States Department of Agriculture: Agriculture Research Services: Honey Bee Health and Colony Collapse Disorder
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency: Colony Collapse Disorder
  • University of Florida: Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in Honey Bees
  • Scientific Beekeeping: Sick Bees: Colony Collapse Revisited
  • Bee World: Electromagnetic Radiation and Bees

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and
is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a
qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: I live in Mexico. What can I do to help the bees?

Answer: I don’t have specific advice for Mexico. I think you should do
the same thing as people who live in other areas, like planting a bee-friendly

I also recommend finding a local beekeepers group. They would be your best bet
for finding advice specific to your area.

© 2015 Catherine Giordano

I welcome your compliments, brickbats, and additional information

Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on July 31, 2017:

Organic local honey is also better at helping to prevent some seasonal

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on July 04, 2015:

teaches12345: I’m so glad to hear you have a source of organic honey. I never
paid much attention to bees, but now I realize (their biology and social
structure are amazing (2) they are very important to all life on this planet.
Thanks for your comment.

Dianna Mendez on July 04, 2015:

I haven’t seen as many bees in south Florida as I did when we lived in the
midwest. Although there are plenty of beekeepers in our area that keep us
supplied with organic honey. We would lose a lot if the bees were eliminated.
Thanks for the education. Long live the Honey Bee!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on July 02, 2015:

Elsie Hagley: I am so sorry to hear about the wasps attacking your honey bee
hives. I hope you can find a way to deal with that. Beekeepers like you are so
admirable. I have read that it is the small beekeepers that are keeping the
honeybee population up. Thanks for your comment. It is sad to learn that the
problem has spread to New Zealand.

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on July 01, 2015:

Interesting, there is no deny bees are disappearing, in New Zealand one of the
main causes in our area is the wasp, they are completely destroying the young
larva, using them as a food while helping their selves to the honey.

We lost two hives due to that reason, very sad, as we live in the bush where
there are a lot manuka bushes, that honey is worth a lot of money.

Have no idea how to get rid of this problem.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 29, 2015:

travmaj: I too used to see lots of bees in my year, and now I don’t anymore.
It is frightening that we could lose the bees. Thanks for your comment.

travmaj from australia on June 29, 2015:

This was so well documented and much to consider. I admit I haven’t seen many
bees as I once did around here. I’m a huge honey fan, from our local brands to
the NZ Manuka. I’ve just seen an article where a pure strain of bees have been
discovered on a Pacific island. Niue. This could be partly an answer to the
bee population thriving. I hope so.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 24, 2015:

Kristen Howe: Thank you for your comment, praise and votes. There is some
debate about whether we are losing honeybees at a greater rate than in the
past, but it best to err on the side of caution.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 24, 2015:

Catherine, this was an interesting and great hub on the honey bee colony
situation. You’ve made your points real clear. Voted up!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 15, 2015:

FlourishAnyway: Thanks for your comment. I used to have bees in my yard all
the time; now I don’t see them anymore. I hope the bees return to your
father’s apple trees.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 15, 2015:

This is a well researched and well written hub about a problem that impacts us
all. My father grows apples just as a hobby with 15 apple trees and has
remarked there are no honey bees this year.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 13, 2015:

I couldn’t agree more lawrence01. We should give the bees all the help we can.
thanks for the info on the honey.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on June 13, 2015:


I just did a check and Hawaii produces a ‘monofloral’ honey from Lehua (not
sure if that’s a plant or region) labelled “Manuka” but the Manuka tree is
native to Australia and NZ.

Apparently beekeepers prize the monofloral honeys as they are the better
quality ones. Beware the ‘knockoffs’ though as they don’t have the same

My wife has problems with bee products in general but even we always have a
pot of honey there “for medicinal purposes” (lemon and honey is amazing on a
cold winter night). Lets give these little creatures all the help we can, and
those who keep them all the support we can.


Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 13, 2015:

AudreyHowitt: The neonicotinoids are prime suspects in colony collapse
disorder. thanks for your comment.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 13, 2015:

annart: Thanks for your comment. Planting flowers is a small thing that we can
all do for the honey bees.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 13, 2015:

lawrence01. I have been told that Manuka honey is from Hawaii and is the best
honey. I haven’t had any of it.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on June 13, 2015:


Have you come across Manuka honey? It’s honey that comes from bees who’ve been
pollinating Manuka trees (a native NZ tree) and has some amazing properties

It’s been researched and found to have anti bacterial properties. It is
actually used to treat severe burn victims as they honey protects the wound
and the unique properties of the honey helo the healing process.

Naturally it’s a big money earner for bee keepers here and so far there’s been
no way to imitate it (no cheap chinese knockoff). We do export the honey but
its probably incredibly expensive!


Andrew Spacey from Sheffield, UK on June 13, 2015:

Some great information here, nicely presented. Yes, I think the bees are
suffering in general from overuse of chemicals for one, and loss of foraging
habitat, plus local disturbances such as increased traffic and noise and
pollution. Everything adds up over time. In addition there is disease of
course. In short bees are under pressure from all sides so it’s good to hear
the news that in some areas increases in bee activity has been seen.

Audrey Howitt from California on June 13, 2015:

I too think that Harvard’s study on neonicotinoids is the definitive study at
present. Well worth reading–

Ann Carr from SW England on June 13, 2015:

I love honey and I love the bees. I have planted lots of ‘wild’ flowers in my
garden and have always been aware of helping the bees. They are so essential
for our survival. I tend to believe that it’s mainly climate change and the
lack of wildlife areas. Many species adapt so I’m hoping it might be a ‘blip’
for bees. Sadly, that might not be the case. The fact remains that we depend
much more on the honey bee than most people realise. For that reason I’m
sharing this too.

Great hub; everyone should be aware of this.


Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 13, 2015:

Thanks lawrence01. We can all do a little bit for the bees. The swarming bees
would have left on their own. When they swarm, they send out scouts to find a
new location for their hive and then they all go there.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on June 12, 2015:


We found earlier this year why our lemon tree is always in fruit (and I mean
48 out of 52 weeks it has ripe lemons!) Our neighbour has two hives!

We found out as the bees swarmed and we haf to call a beekeeper to take the
swarm from the trees. He saw the hives next door but said there were enough
bees for another hive so he took them away.

Bees are amazing little creatures and this hub us a good start point for those
of who don’t know a lot about them.

Awesome hub


Needless to say I keep my trees healthy so the bees have good nectar

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 10, 2015:

ChitrangadaSharan: Thank you for your comment about honey bees and your vote .
We can help support the small beekeepers by buying local honey. It s a
delicious and nutritious food. We can also plant flowers that provide nectar
to honeybees.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 10, 2015:

Great informative hub spreading awareness about Honey Bees and its colonies!

We all have to play our part in this regard.

I take honey everyday in the morning. In India there are many centers for
Honey Bee keeping or Bee farming and this is quite well supported by
Government as well.

Thanks for sharing this excellent hub, voted up!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 09, 2015:

Dennyjo: Thank you so much. Your praise means a lot coming from an experienced
beekeeper such as yourself. Climate change may be wreaking havoc on the honey
bees. I hope things turn around for you and your bees.

Dennyjo on June 09, 2015:

This is a very good article. I am a beekeeper and this is my fifth season. I
am usually not able to keep a hive throughout the winter. This last winter I
lost one hive to the cold and two hives that simply left mid-February. One
possible scenario is that our weather was so warm that they went out to forage
and there was nothing for them. They left the honey, the wax, the pollen in
the hive that they needed for the winter. I am also the president of the local
beekeeping club and spend most of my time educating new beekeepers and the
public. I really appreciate the information in this article.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 08, 2015:

Thanks Larry Rankin: Bees are essential to our food supply. Buy honey from
l9cal organic beekeepers because these are the people who support the bees.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 08, 2015:

Whether you eat honey or not, without bees, we’re all in trouble.

Wonderful article.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 02, 2015:

D. J. Anderson: It is an alignment of the planets os something. An idea just
gets into the air and then it is everywhere. I did not know about the TV
shows. I will search them out. I heard about this from my friends who keep
bees and I did some research and wrote this hub. I’m glad you liked it. Today
I edited it to reinforce that everything I said about CCD is just speculation.
There is no conclusive evidence about what is happening. It is scary tho.

DJ Anderson on June 01, 2015:

Odd that you have written this wonderful article about bees. There was

an episode on the TV series, “Elementary” where bees played a major role.
Then, I watched a documentary on bees. Another documentary about how “Killer
Bees” were no longer a threat. And, last but not least

a new invention that has been developed where the honey can be harvested
without disturbing the bees. It is a pre-fab honeycomb structure.

So, naturally when I saw your article, I had to jump over here to get the

goods. You did really great research on this subject.

Many are concerned but it seems there are no definitive answers.

Nice hub, Catherine.


Marc Hubs from United Kingdom on June 01, 2015:

The last I heard, Harvard University had come to the conclusion that the
disappearance of bee colonies was due to neonicotinoids being used in
pesticides according to their research. I do, however, believe there are
multiple reasons and not just one cause alone. It’s only a problem in certain
countries though – the overall global bee population has actually risen
despite CCD affecting many countries.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 01, 2015:

Buildreps: There is actually a lot of controversy about this. Some say it is
not happening at all, and everyone fights over what is and is not the cause.
Nothing is definitive. In the article I speculate about what the causes might
be. The government is researching and providing evidence that it is real.

Buildreps from Europe on June 01, 2015:

Interesting and well researched Hub. I have no idea how large the CCD problem
actually is, but I heard many rumours lately there are clear relations with
pesticides. Scientists who claim otherwise might be on the payroll (one or
more) of chemicals producers. I cannot imagine that it can be that hard to
find the real cause. It’s just a matter of brains and stamina.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 01, 2015:

WillStarr It is a widespread problem. It is happening in Europe, too. I don’t
think it has anything to do with whether the bee is n it’s native habitat.
Thanks for the comment.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 01, 2015:

Thank you billybuc. It is good news that bees are thriving in your area. A
couple of years back I had scads of bees buzzing all over the Wandering
Jerusalem in my yard and now none. Thanks for commenting and I’m glad you
liked the hub.

Mary Craig from New York on June 01, 2015:

Surely planting flowers and following the results of researchers can help us
mitigate this problem. Since it seems impossible to find the actual root cause
we need to take many different precautions. You did your homework well on this

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on June 01, 2015:

It is a serious problem, but I’m wondering whether the same bees in their
native countries are experiencing the same problem? Or did I miss that part?

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 01, 2015:

Oddly, or maybe not so, we are seeing a resurgence of honey bees in our area.
Our berry bushes are swarming with them this year. I tend to believe it’s
because our city is so welcoming to urban farming. Quite a few people nearby
raise bee colonies, and there are more urban farms than you can imagine
here……anyway, interesting article, Catherine.