November 27, 2013 at 11:52 pm #1471MikeKeymaster
April 12 2007 ——-
To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to
Threat to agriculture as mystery killer wipes out honeybee hives
· Keepers say they are losing most of their stocks· Defra denies
evidence of ‘colony collapse disorder’
John Vidal, environment editor
Thursday April 12 2007
When John Chapple, one of London’s largest keepers of honeybees, opened his 40
hives after the winter, he was shocked: 23 were empty, seven contained dead
bees, and only 10 were unaffected by what seemed to be a mystery plague.
Beekeepers are used to diseases sweeping through their colonies, and,
nationally, nearly one in seven colonies dies naturally each winter. But this
seemed very different to Mr Chapple, who is head of the London Beekeepers
Association and has 20 years’ experience with the insects and their diseases.
“The problem was that most of the bees had just disappeared. It was like the
Marie Celeste. There was no chance they had been stolen,” he said yesterday.
“The ones that were left did not seem to have been attacked by varroa [the tiny
parasitical mite that beekeepers have learned to live with since it arrived from
Asia 15 years ago]. I really do not know what happened”.
Mr Chapple’s experience has chimed with other beekeepers. “Many colleagues and
bee clubs tell me that they are experiencing something similar. The Pinner and
Ruislip beekeepers’ group told me only this morning that they have lost 50% to
75% of their bees. I don’t know what is happening, but the bees are just going,”
Many British beekeepers fear they are witnessing the start of an alarming
phenomenon which is sweeping the US and Europe. Colony collapse disorder (CCD)
is possibly the most serious disease yet faced by bees.
According to the national bee unit, a branch of the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs, its “symptoms appear to be the total collapse of bee
colonies, with a complete absence of bees or only a few remaining in the hive”.
The unit says no one has any idea what is causing CCD. Theories in the US, where
24 states are affected and losses of 50% to 90% of colonies are being reported,
include environmental stresses, malnutrition, unknown pathogens, the use of
antibiotics, mites, pesticides and genetically modified crops.
Because bees pollinate millions of hectares of fruit trees and crops, the
implications for agriculture are enormous. “Approximately 40% of my 2,000
colonies are currently dead and this is the greatest winter mortality I have
ever experienced,” Gene Brandi, a member of the California State Beekeepers
Association, told the US Congress recently.
In Spain, thousands of colonies are said to have been lost, and up to 40% of
Swiss bees are reported to have disappeared or died in the past year. Heavy
losses have also been reported in Portugal, Italy and Greece.
Government bee inspectors met yesterday, but Mike Brown, head of the national
bee unit based in York, reported no signs of CCD in Britain. “There is no
evidence in the UK right now of colony collapse disorder,” he said in a
statement. “The majority of inspectors said that they can put the current
mortalities in honeybee populations around the UK down to varroa or varroasis.”
“I just don’t know where they get their information,” said Mr Chapple. “They
took away some of my bees but I have heard nothing. All I know that something is
very wrong with our bees.”
Copyright Guardian News and Media Limited
The forum ‘Strange Animal Deaths’ is closed to new topics and replies.