Mana Yoneuchi


Colony Collapse Disorder and How It Affects You

Bees. Bees are incredibly important to our world and they influence a lot of our everyday life whether we think about it or not. Around 80 percent of all worldwide pollination is performed by honey bees. Honey bees are crucial to our every day life considering they supply around 90 percent of the world’s nutrition (Benjamin, Holpuch, Spencer). In October 2006, the United States was faced with increasing numbers of beekeepers reporting major losses of hives, ranging from 30 to 90 percent, in their apiaries with no evident cause (“Impact of CCD on US Agriculture”).  This phenomenon is called Colony Collapse Disorder. Many research studies have been conducted in the past decade attempting to unearth what is causing these losses but none of them have found a leading cause; many argue it’s due to pesticides while others are blaming pollution. It is pivotal that we fund more research on Colony Collapse Disorder because without it, our bees will die and it will result in colossal economic loss and ruination of crops.

Colony Collapse Disorder “…is the disappearance of most, if not all, of the adult honey bees in a colony, leaving behind honey and brood but no dead bee bodies” (Kaplan 4). The main cause of CCD has yet to be determined but many researchers have agreed that some of the causes lie within four main categories: parasites, pathogens, environmental stressors and management stressors. Picornalike viruses affect bees are deadly to them and “…could result in honey bees having reduced abilities to synthesize certain proteins…more vulnerable to…stresses like pesticides, nutrition problems or other pathogens” (Kaplan 6). While these categories are a great stepping stone for us to build a feasible solution to protect the bees, some researchers believe that the main cause of CCD are the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonicotinoid pesticides are a derivative of nicotine and “…work by binding to an incest’s nicotinic receptors in the central nervous system, blocking nerve impulses” (OTT 407). In 2012, a group of beekeepers tried to force the EPA to ban the use of neonicotinoids because they believed that its affects on their bees (OTT 416). “While about 60 percent of the 259 wax and 350 pollen samples did show the presence of at least one systemic pesticide, almost all were found at levels well below what is considered lethal to honey bees” (Kaplan 8). The focus on pesticides alone is counterintuitive to the protection of bees and instead distracts from the problem at hand.

Funding for more productive research for Colony Collapse Disorder is imperative in order to prevent massive economic loss. The impact bees have on our every day lives are often neglected considering people only think of flowers or honey are their primary job but their role goes far beyond honey production. 71 of 100 crop species responsible for providing 90 percent of food worldwide are dependent on bee pollination. This pollination’s worth is estimated $37 billion-$91 billion annually (Benjamin, Holpuch, Spencer). The estimated financial loss, in the United States alone, in the winter of 2006/2007 projected to be around $8 billion-$12 billion on America’s agricultural economy (“Impact of CCD on US Agriculture”). Bees pollinate about one-third of crop species in the United States as well as animal-feed crops such as clover that feed cows. The impact of CCD on crops worldwide not only affects the crops we eat like vegetables and fruit, but also the meat industry. With less feed for cows, that reduces the quality and quantity of beef, which in turn, result in less beef and prices will rise. Domestically grown nuts, fruits and vegetables will rise which will lead to increased imports from countries where CCD doesn’t exist. These overseas imports will add to the already large ($531.5 billion as of 2015) US trade deficit (“How the US Trade Deficit Hurts the Economy”).  If we do not find the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder and take necessary actions to reverse its effects on bee populations then the impact on our economy will be detrimental.

Although our economy is very important, many ecosystems will collapse without bee pollination. Ecosystems depend on biodiversity to ensure that it’s healthy. When bees pollinate, they typically prefer different species of flowers depending on what species of bee they are. This helps biodiversity, so when one species of bee dies, the other bees aren’t likely to pollinate that type of flower which might result in the endangerment of that plant. Most flowers can’t self pollinate and seeds being blown in the wind isn’t that efficient. Many associate bees with flowers and honey but bees account for so much more. With the demand of food at an all time high, the loss of bees will put the world in jeopardy. “Spread across 800,000 acres, California’s almond orchards typically require 1.6 million domesticated bee colonies to pollinate the flowering trees and produce what has become the state’s largest overseas agricultural export” (Grossman). With so many crop species that, we rely on for both food and economical reasons, are dependent on bee pollination, it is consequential that we discover the main causes of CCD. Other insects that pollinate won’t be able to keep up with the amount of crop species that farmers grow. Without proper funding for Colony Collapse Disorder research, our efforts to protect bee populations will not be enough and the amount of fruit and vegetables we pull in will dwindle.

Many will argue that bees should not be a priority when it comes to government spending but as I have illustrated earlier, research in Colony Collapse Disorder is an investment that this nation should take. Last year, the Endangered Species Act provided around $1.6 billion (“President’s Proposed Budget”) which some would argue that that’s a very large amount of money but considering the Endangered Species Act encompasses many different departments, it’s very small compared to the $609.3 billion allotted for military spending. Also, most of that $1.6 billion goes toward the Fish and Wildlife Service and it’s unclear if bee conservation fell under that budget. Another argument is that Obama has already proposed a plan to save bees and other pollinators so there is no need to ask for more. Although it’s amazing that Obama has recognized the importance of bees’ role in both the environment and economy, it’s only a strategy that promotes the health of honey bees and other pollinators (Eilperin). It also doesn’t really delve into research on how to fight Colony Collapse Disorder and it shifts its focus on fighting to ban neonicotinoids rather than study on what is killing the bees in the first place.

The scientists who believe that neonicotinoids are the absolute, main cause of CCD are also to blame for the hindrance of fighting CCD. I mentioned earlier that pesticides, such as neonicotinoids, are a factor of Colony Collapse Disorder but there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that it’s the main factor. It can be argued that it’s simply a catalyst. Some scientists believe that, they do think pesticides, more specifically ones like neonicotinoids, might play a factor in overall bee health. It can weaken their immune system and when parasites and viruses such as Varroa mites, acute bee paralysis virus and Kashmir bee virus but the EPA believes that there aren’t enough neonicotinoids present to be lethal. Bee populations rose in the past 8 years which many people could argue that it’s not a big problem any more (Ingraham). Although it is great to hear that bee populations are high but these are commercial, honey producing colonies with beekeepers that buy bees online.

Bees are vital to our world whether it’s the foods we eat, the biodiversity of different ecosystems, and the foods we buy. Providing scientists with proper funding into research on Colony Collapse Disorder will ensure that none of our efforts to decelerate the affects won’t go to waste. Although bees are not the only pollinators the world has, many species depend on them to guarantee their survival. Farmers depend on them, consumers depend on high quality fruits, vegetables and beef, so many people depend on things that are pollinated from bees. Scientists are fighting with each other on what is the main cause and it results in half finished “cures” and petitions that go nowhere. With the extra funding in Colony Collapse Disorder research, there will be definitive proof if neonicotinoids are the main cause or if there is something that’s infecting the bees with viruses, parasites, pathogens. Either way, it will provide beekeepers and scientists with a blueprint that will allow them to bring bee populations back to where it was around 40 years ago and so that we can prevent it from happening again.



Works Cited

Benjamin, Alison, Holpuch Amanda, and Spencer Ruth. “Buzzfeeds: The Effects of Colony Collapse Disorder and Other Bee News.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 30 July 2013. Web. 02 May 2016.

Eilperin, Juliet. “How the White House Plans to Help the Humble Bee Maintain Its Buzz.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 19 May 2015. Web. 12 May 2016.

“Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go.” National Priorities Project. N.p., 2015. Web. 12 May 2016.

Grossman, Elizabeth. “Declining Bee Populations Pose A Threat to Global   Agriculture.” By Elizabeth Grossman: Yale Environment 360. Yale University, 30 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 May 2016.

“Impact of CCD on US Agriculture.” PBS. PBS, 20 July 2009. Web. 02 May 2016.

Ingraham, Christopher. “Call off the Bee-pocalypse.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 23 July 2013. Web. 13 May 2016.

“How the US Trade Deficit Hurts the Economy.” About.com Money. N.p., 11 Feb. 2016. Web. 03 May 2016.

Kaplan, J. Kim. “Colony Collapse Disorder.” Agricultural Research 60.6 (2012): 48. Environment Complete. Web. 2 May 2016.

Ott, Kelsey. “Buzzkill: How The Epa’s Inaction Is Killing America’s Bees.” William & Mary Environmental Law & Policy Review 39.2 (2015): 401-425. Environment Complete. Web. 3 May 2016.

“President’s Proposed Budget Falls Far Short of Funding Needed to Recover Endangered Species.” President’s Proposed Budget Falls Far Short of Funding Needed to Recover Endangered Species. Biological Diversity, 4 Feb. 2015. Web. 12 May 2016.

“Save the Bees.” Greenpeace USA Save the Bees Comments. Greenpeace, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Watanabe, Myrna E. “Colony Collapse Disorder: Many Suspects, No Smoking Gun.” Bioscience 58.5 (2008): 384-388. Environment Complete. Web. 2 May 2016.

“Will We Save the Bees in Time?” About.com Money. N.p., 15 Feb. 2016. Web. 03 May 2016.


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