Who would be an enemy to a bee?
Who could hate a bee and be her enemy? Well, it turns out there are a lot of natural bee enemies. Bees have struggled ever since the beginning of time with pests that want to destroy them from within. Some are old enemies and some are newer.
Varroa Mites started out being a pest to the Asian bee and later moved on to the European honeybee (what we know as honeybees). Varroa mites did not make there way to the United States until 1987 and it didn’t take long for it to rise to the top of the list of bee enemies where it still sits today. The mite sneaks into the bees cell right before it is sealed. While there is feeds off of a bees fat bodies and reproduces under the protective cell cap. If that wasn’t bad enough, as it feeds off off the bee it also introduces other viruses into its body. One of the first visual signs that you have an infestation is the appearance of deformed wings on bees. There are treatments that can reduce the number of mites in a hive, but they can never really be gotten rid of. Treatment for mites can be nasty chemicals too that are not good for bees or humans. At Bee Lovely we treat our bees with a combination of CNG (Certified Natural Grown) treatments. We believe that it is better for the bees and the end products of honey, wax, propolis, and pollen is cleaner as well.
Nosema is a fungal infection that affects the intestinal tract of honeybees, most of the year it is not a big deal but shows up more in winter. Honeybees are extremely clean animals and will not go to the bathroom in the hive. In the winter they will hold it until the weather warms up to above freezing and is sunny. They will then make a quick flight out to finally go. However, nosema is like honeybee disentary and they can’t hold it any longer and relieve themselves in the hive or just outside the entrance. This eventually leads to more bees getting sick and spreading the problem further. One of the treatments for nosema is antibiotics, but we have chosen to use a treatment based on essential oils and plant sterols. Studies have shown that it is just as effective as antibiotics without the long term effects that antibiotics can cause.
Neonicitinoids are a special type of pesticide, it is a seed coating that once the seed it planted it is incorporated in the whole plant, all fluid in the plant then contains pesticide. The trouble is that this is not just used on agricultural seeds but also many decorative plants and vegetables. When CCD was first noticed many concerned beekeepers started looking at the research on the lethal dosage for bees. What they eventually found was that the research was faulty and that the lethal dose for bees is much lower than originally thought. Many other countries have banned the major neonicitinoids and have seen bee populations improve. More research is coming on systemic pesticides as well as others once thought to be safe. We are also seeing that glyphosate and fungicides are causing problems with a bees reproductive capabilities and gut health. Closing thought on pesticides is be very careful with pesticides that you spray in your yard.
Colony Collapse was first discovered in 2006 when beekeepers where noticing their hive populations dwindling over the summer. In most cases bees are relatively healthy in the spring and summer when their populations turns over consistently and they can leave the hive to do their work. The signs of CCD are that the hive has a queen, she is laying eggs and brood is being reared, but the population in the hive just continues to diminish. As mentioned before bees are very clean and when they know they are sick they will leave the hive to die otherwise fellow bees have to remove the body and possibly spread the disease. When a hive is being plagued by CCD the bees leave knowing they are sick, as this continues there are less bees to care for the young ones. The queen then lays less eggs because of the lack of worker bees and the hive continues this till it is dead. To date there is no final decision as to what causes CCD, the closest researchers have come is finding that all infected hives have mites and nosema. The trouble is that bees have been dealing with those for a long time and not seen effects like we are now. Many beekeepers now believe that it is a combination of varroa, nosema, and systemic pesticides. Pesticides might be the straw that broke the camels back and bees can no longer thrive if all three are present.
Unfortunately for bees there are so many outside forces trying to take them down. For us beekeepers we have to stay on top of the latest research on how to treat them and what are the newest enemies on the horizon. Zombie Bees are right around the corner (in case you are wondering; yes, it is real).