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Colony Collapse Disorder and Pollinator Health

Bee pollinating
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the sudden die-off of honey bee colonies. Pollination is vital to our survival and the existence of nearly all ecosystems on earth. One-third of our diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80% of that pollination. CCD threatens not only pollination and honey production but, much more, this crisis threatens to wipe out production of crops dependent on bees for pollination. 

Pollinators contribute more than $24 billion to the U.S. economy, with $15 billion coming from honeybees alone. Considering this dependency, reduced honeybee and pollinator populations pose a serious risk to domestic agriculture, ecological health and the U.S. economy. 

There have been many theories about the cause of CCD, but the researchers who are leading the effort to find out why are now focused on various factors (Source: Environmental Protection Agency - Colony Collapse Disorder):
  • Increased losses due to the invasive varroa mite (a pest of honey bees).
  • New or emerging diseases such as Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema.
  • Pesticide poisoning through exposure to pesticides applied to crops or for in-hive insect or mite control.
  • Stress bees experience due to management practices such as transportation to multiple locations across the country for providing pollination services.
  • Changes to the habitat where bees forage.
  • Inadequate forage/poor nutrition.
  • Potential immune-suppressing stress on bees caused by one or a combination of factors identified above.

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Spotlights

  • USDA. National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced seven grants totaling $6.8 million for research and extension projects to sustain healthy populations of pollinators, which are crucial to the nation’s food security and environmental health. The funding is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.


    “An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables, are pollinated by honey bees alone,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “With the recent declines in pollinator populations owing to various factors, it is imperative that we invest in research to promote pollinator health, reduce honey bee colony losses, and restore pollinator habitats.”

  • White House. President Barack Obama (archives).
    See also: Announcing New Steps to Promote Pollinator Health (May 19, 2015), which includes the "National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators" and the "Pollinator Research Action Plan" both released in May 2015.

Selected Resources

The section below contains selected highly relevant resources for this subject, organized by source. To view all related content for this subject, click on "View all resources for subject" in the top left of this page.

Partnership

Pollinator Partnership.
The Pollinator Partnership’s mission is to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research. Signature initiatives include the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NPPC), National Pollinator Week, and the Ecoregional Planting Guides.
See also: North America Pollinator Protection Campaign: Wildlife Fact Sheet - Invasive Species (PDF | 156 KB) and North America Mite-A-Thon (national effort to collect infestation data and to visualize Varroa infestations in honey bee colonies across North America within a one week window.

Federal Government

USDA. Agricultural Research Service.
USDA. ARS. Bee Research Laboratory.
USDA. National Agricultural Statistics Service.
In 2016 NASS began to collect data on honey bee health and pollination costs. Provides reliable, up-to-date statistics help track honey bee mortality.
USDA. APHIS. Plant Protection and Quarantine.
DOI. Fish and Wildlife Service.
USDA. Forest Service.
Environmental Protection Agency.
Pesticide risk management must be based on sound science, consistent with the laws under which pesticides are regulated in the United States. EPA has been working aggressively to protect bees and other pollinators from pesticide exposure.

Professional

National Conference of State Legislatures.
Includes a summary of federal and state actions (including state pollinator laws).