Report on mysterious honey bee disease

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, both agencies of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), have released the 2010 Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) Progress Report highlighting current research on this still mysterious disease affecting honey bees. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

The report, which was mandated by Congress in 2008, summarises research by federal agencies, state departments of agriculture, universities and private organisations to find the cause of CCD and how to stop or mitigate its impact.

“Honey bees are critical to US agriculture, with about 130 crops depending on pollination to add more than $15 billion in crop value annually. It is vital that we find a way to deal with CCD,” said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. “This report is an important measure of what we are learning about this serious problem.”

CCD, a syndrome characterised by the sudden disappearance of all adult honey bees in a colony, was first recognised in 2006. Since then, surveys of beekeepers indicate that the industry is suffering losses of more than 30% annually. Before the appearance of CCD, losses averaged 15-20% annually from a variety of factors such as varroa mites and other pests and pathogens.

During the past 3 years, numerous causes for CCD have been proposed and investigated. Although the cause or causes of CCD are still unknown, research summarised in the report supports the hypothesis that CCD may be a syndrome caused by many different factors, that work individually or in combination. The sequence and combination may not even be the same in every case, explained Kevin Hackett, ARS national program leader for pollination and co-chair of the USDA CCD Steering Committee.

The 2010 CCD Progress Report is available online (