Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder Explained?


by Catherine Haug

(photo of honeybee from bugguide.net)

On October 6, 2010, Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk of UM in Missoula, along with several other researchers, announced they believe they have found the cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD) that severely affects honeybee hives. It’s a lethal combination of a virus (Invertebrate Iridescent Virus or IIV) and a fungal parasite (Nosema ceranae). The bees are able to fight off an infection of either one of these, but when both are present, the bees succumb and die. This deadly combo was found in “virtually all of the bees from CCD colonies” sampled from widely dispersed USA hives from 2006 through 2009. (1,2)

Dr. Bromenshenk outlines next steps in the publication of his findings (2). While this virus-parasite combo is highly suspect in CCD, more research needs to be done to confirm that it is indeed the cause, and then they can begin to research how to turn this around.

What’s Next?

Meanwhile, we must ask, what has allowed these micro-organisms, which are not native to North America, to thrive at the expense of the bees? Is there a connection to toxins or pollutants in the environment? How did these organisms find their way to North America? Are globalization and the commercial monoculture agricultural systems at least partly to blame?

Honeybees are essential to pollinate our orchards and gardens, along with our native pollinators including mason bees, bumble bees, wasps, butterflies and hummingbirds. it is important to encourage these species to visit our take up residence in our yards by ensuring they have a clean environment and places to create their nests.

Consider making bee blocks to house native mason bees (which are much more efficient pollinators than honeybees); see John Holbrook: Orchard Mason Bees, page 3, for instructions on making the motels. You can order bee blocks from John in Missoula; contact John: (406) 728-6223;  jholbrook(at)bigsky.net (email disguised for security). Or consider making your own blocks: How to Make Bee Blocks for Orchard Mason Bees.

Upcoming ESP Gathering: Regression Beekeeping

Meanwhile, it is important for all of us to encourage healthy bee colonies. To this end, ESP will host an event February 23, 2011 on Regression Beekeeping, presented by Veronica Honthaas. Watch for the Event Notice next year!

For more (this website):

on honey bees and CCD

on Orchard Mason Bees and Bee Blocks


  1. Big Sky Bee (www.bigskybee.com/2010/10/ccd-explained.html)
  2. Plos One Journal: Iridovirus and Microsporidian Linked to Honey Bee Colony Decline (www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0013181)

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