As honey bees around the country are dying off at concerning levels, a group of researchers at the UW’s beekeeping yard are working to maintain and protect honey bees and other pollinators by using non-artificial methods.
Honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than $15 billion worth of crops per year in the United States, yet their population is experiencing a decline. On average, American beekeepers lost 33 percent of their hives each winter from 2006 through 2011.
Researchers said one contributor to these large die-offs is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which occurs when worker bees suddenly vanish from the hive, therefore leaving the queen to die. The first case of CCD was recorded in 2006 by a Pennsylvania beekeeper. No one knows where the workers go or what happens to them, because they never return to the hive.
“The evidence is no evidence,” said Evan Sugden, UW professor of biology and instructor for the biology department’s popular ‘Science with Bees’ class.
However, colony collapse is not the only major problem bees face, although researchers said it is perhaps the most perplexing. There is no known, single cause of CCD; scientists believe a combination of chemicals, mites, viruses, and unsustainable beekeeping practices, among other factors, contribute to the disorder.
Sugden said rather than trying to address the vague, invisible illness that is colony collapse, he feels addressing each of these factors is more productive to restoring bee health.