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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVING HONEY BEE HEALTH, SURVIVORSHIP, AND POLLINATION AVAILABILITY

Location: Bee Research

Title: Colony Collapse Disorder: A descriptive studey

Authors
item Vanengelsdorp, Dennis -
item Evans, Jay
item Saegerman, Claude -
item Mullen, Christopher -
item Haubruge, Eric -
item Nyguyen, Kim -
item Frazier, Maryann -
item Frazier, James -
item Cox-Foster, Diana -
item Chen, Yanping
item Underwood, Robyn -
item Tarpy, David -
item Pettis, Jeffery

Submitted to: PLoS One
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 29, 2009
Publication Date: August 3, 2009
Citation: Vanengelsdorp, D., Evans, J.D., Saegerman, C., Mullen, C., Haubruge, E., Nyguyen, K., Frazier, M., Frazier, J., Cox-Foster, D., Chen, Y., Underwood, R., Tarpy, D., Pettis, J.S. 2009. Colony Collapse Disorder: A descriptive study. PLoS One. 4(8):e6481.

Interpretive Summary: Over the last two winters, there have been large-scale, unexplained losses of managed honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies in the United States. In the absence of a known cause, this syndrome was named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) because the main trait was a rapid loss of adult worker bees. We initiated a descriptive epizootiological study in order to better characterize CCD and compare risk factor exposure between populations afflicted by and not afflicted by CCD. Of 61 quantified variables (including adult bee physiology, pathogen loads, and pesticide levels), no single measure emerged as a most-likely cause of CCD. Bees in CCD colonies had higher pathogen loads and were co-infected with a greater number of pathogens than control populations, suggesting either an increased exposure to pathogens or a reduced resistance of bees toward pathogens. This is the first comprehensive survey of CCD-affected bee populations that suggests CCD involves an interaction between pathogens and other stress factors. We present evidence that this condition is contagious or the result of exposure to a common risk factor. This information will help guide future hypothesis-driven research that continues to explore bee losses.

Technical Abstract: Over the last two winters, there have been large-scale, unexplained losses of managed honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies in the United States. In the absence of a known cause, this syndrome was named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) because the main trait was a rapid loss of adult worker bees. We initiated a descriptive epizootiological study in order to better characterize CCD and compare risk factor exposure between populations afflicted by and not afflicted by CCD. Of 61 quantified variables (including adult bee physiology, pathogen loads, and pesticide levels), no single measure emerged as a most-likely cause of CCD. Bees in CCD colonies had higher pathogen loads and were co-infected with a greater number of pathogens than control populations, suggesting either an increased exposure to pathogens or a reduced resistance of bees toward pathogens. Levels of the synthetic acaricide coumaphos (used by beekeepers to control the parasitic mite Varroa destructor) were higher in control colonies than CCD-affected colonies. This is the first comprehensive survey of CCD-affected bee populations that suggests CCD involves an interaction between pathogens and other stress factors. We present evidence that this condition is contagious or the result of exposure to a common risk factor. Potentially important areas for future hypothesis-driven research, including the possible legacy effect of mite parasitism and the role of honey bee resistance to pesticides, are highlighted.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014