To bee or not to bee? Can you tell if a beehive has CCD?

North American Honeybees have gained media attention over the past decade because of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), whereby bee colonies experience massive die-offs. We’ve known about CCD since 2006, but we don’t know its underlying cause. CCD is a big problem because plants reproduce through pollination, and bees are a major pollinator. This means that CCD has serious and widespread effects on plant life, affecting not only wild plants, like trees and wildflowers, but also plants we use for food, like corn and apples.  

In this study, the researchers wanted to determine if bees had symptoms of CCD before they actually died from the disease and, if so, what those symptoms were. They used an approach called pathophysiology, which studies how tissues in the body change as a result of disease. An example of this would be how your throat can get sore and inflamed when you have a cold. From dissections. the researchers found that there were indeed some significant differences in a handful of specific tissues between bees from healthy colonies and bees from colonies with CCD. Just like you might have a cold but still look healthy to an observer – the signs that you’re sick are sometimes inside your body. Luckily, we don’t have to dissect humans to figure out what’s wrong! (most of the time)

The results of this study are important because they show that it is possible to detect CCD in bees before they die. A few bees could be taken out of a healthy-looking colony and dissected, and if they have any symptoms of CCD the colony can be isolated so the disease does not spread to nearby hives. Though more research is needed to figure out the underlying cause of CCD and how we can prevent it, this study is an important first step to saving the bees. 

Interested in reading more research on CCD? Check out this previous Plosibilities post.

Summary written by: Ruth Dedman

To read the full article, please click the following link:

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and bee age impact honey bee pathophysiology

Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Kirsten S. Traynor, Michael Andree, Elinor M. Lichtenberg, Yanping Chen, Claude Saegerman, Diana L. Cox-Foster

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