I caught this on NPR the other day. Can anybody expand or comment on it? Any good references that can help with this? It focuses on some poor beekeeping practices instead of blaming everything on Monsanto.
It is not quite that simple.
The phenomenon (named in 2006) is colony collapse disorder (CCD).
Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear.
The factors and causes of the problem are complex:
CCD may be compounded of a number of factors in addition to neonicotinoids. In 2007, some authorities attributed the problem to biotic factors such as Varroa mites, Nosema apis parasites, and Israeli acute paralysis virus. Other contributing factors may include environmental change-related stress, malnutrition, and migratory beekeeping. Another study in 2012 also pointed to multiple causes, listing pesticides behind the varroa mite, genetics, habitat loss, and poor nutrition.
The wiki is comprehensive and is well worth reading in full to get an overall perspective of the scale and intricacies of the problem.
Here is another article on the causes and complexities of the problem.
What the study also indicated is that there may not be a single cause of the collapse of bee colonies in North America – it could be a complex web of many chemicals that involves different types and classes of pesticides and fungicides.
The difficulty of protection:
Likewise, if CCD is linked to the complex array of chemicals in pollen, it will make it vastly more difficult to protect bee colonies – not to mention the implications for other forms of life subjected to this complex set of chemicals that make their way into the food web or environment.
And to make things even more complicated, the researchers found that the healthy bees they sampled had mostly foraged from weeds and wildflowers – not crops – meaning that bees in general across North America are likely much more exposed to pesticides than previously thought.
Economic consequence of CCD:
More than $30 billion worth of crops in the U.S. could be seriously at risk if the continuing die off of honeybees were to reach critical levels
And this article in The Guardian on global defense against CCD.
Researchers in Sweden said Friday they had developed a new medicine to protect bees from diseases that kill entire populations of the insect in the US and Europe.
But it is a sticking plaster approach. We still need to address the exposure to pesticides, parasites, stress and poor nutrition due to lack of forage that weaken honeybees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to viruses and disease.
The genetic conundrum - no genetic diversity
Just as cows are bred to maximise milk yields, bees have been bred commercially for honey production or to pollinate very early in the year, with no consideration for the long-term impact this lack of genetic diversity would have on the species. The reason the Irish potato famine totally wiped out the country’s potato crop was that the same potato was planted everywhere. There was no genetic diversity, so they all succumbed to the same disease. Likewise our honeybees are all affected by the varroa mite and other parasites and disease.