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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 the 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.

See below which provides selected resources for CCD from agencies and organizations with an interest in the prevention, control, or eradication of invasive species.


Spotlights

  • USDA Takes Action to Strengthen Pollinator Research Support

    • Apr 6, 2022
    • U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    • The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its strengthened commitment to advancing research and programmatic priorities that support pollinator health by soliciting nominations for members to serve on its newly formed USDA National Pollinator Subcommittee. The Pollinator Subcommittee will provide input on annual USDA strategic pollinator priorities and goals and will make pollinator health-related recommendations to strengthen USDA pollinator research efforts. USDA is both a major funder and conductor of pollinator research, with research initiatives spanning across five USDA mission areas.

      National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics (NAREEE) is accepting nominations packages until May 31, 2002. Candidates selected to the Pollinator Subcommittee may serve 1–3 years with terms anticipated to start in July 2022.

  • Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Recognizing National Pollinator Week

    • Jun 17, 2022
    • U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proclamation in recognition and support of National Pollinator Week (June 20 – 26, 2022). Pollinator species, such as bees, other insects, birds, and bats play a critical role in producing more than 100 crops grown in the United States. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $18 billion in value to agricultural crops annually.

      USDA also released its Annual Strategic Pollinator Priorities Report: 2022 [PDF | 1.8 MB] that outlines USDA pollinator research and programmatic priorities for the coming year.

  • Pollinators at a Crossroads

    • Jun 20, 2020
    • USDA. Blog.

    • Bees and other pollinators, including birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, beetles, and small mammals, play a critical role in our food production system. A healthy pollinator population is vital to producing marketable commodities. More than 100 U.S. grown crops rely on pollinators. The added revenue to crop production from pollinators is valued at $18 billion. Pollinators also support healthy ecosystems needed for clean air, stable soils, and a diverse wildlife. That’s why USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) partners with the Land-Grant University System, U.S. government laboratories, and private and non-profit organizations to support research, education, and extension programs advancing pollinator health.

  • USDA Researchers Help Honeybees Keep Pollinating Our Food Crops

    • Jun 17, 2019
    • USDA. ARS. Tellus.

    • Scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are studying ways to keep honeybees stress-free and healthy. These pollinators are important to American agriculture and our nation’s food crops.

  • UNH Researchers Reveal More Than Dozen Wild Bee Species Declining in Northeast

    • Apr 10, 2019
    • USDA. National Institute of Food and Agriculture; University of New Hampshire.

    • Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have found a dramatic decline of 14 wild bee species that are, among other things, important across the Northeast for the pollination of major local crops like apples, blueberries and cranberries.

      “We know that wild bees are greatly at risk and not doing well worldwide,” said Sandra Rehan, assistant professor of biological sciences. “This status assessment of wild bees shines a light on the exact species in decline, beside the well-documented bumble bees. Because these species are major players in crop pollination, it raises concerns about compromising the production of key crops and the food supply in general.”

Selected Resources

The section below contains highly relevant resources for this subject, organized by source.

Partnership
  • Pollinator Partnership

  • Pollinator Week

    • Pollinator Partnership.

    • National Pollinator Week -- June 20-26, 2022, is a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them. In 2007, the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

  • US National Native Bee Monitoring Network

    • US National Native Bee Monitoring Network.

    • There are more than 4,000 native bee species in the United States, with many species yet to be described. These native bees pollinate our native plants and agricultural crops, add beauty to our world, and are deserving of protection. The US National Native Bee Monitoring Research Coordination Network (RCN) is a USDA-funded effort to coordinate and support efforts to monitor native bee populations in the US, with the broader goal of conserving our nation's native bee fauna.

      From 2020-2023, native bee biologists from across the US will work together to develop a national plan for native bee monitoring. The plan will include components such as monitoring protocols and the designation of priority areas for monitoring. The RCN will also develop new educational and training opportunities in areas that are fundamental to native bee monitoring.

      See also: How You Can Help Count and Conserve Native Bees (New York Times, Dec 9, 2020)

Federal Government
  • Assessing Pollinator Friendliness of Plants and Designing Mixes to Restore Habitat for Bees

    • Jan 2022
    • USDA. FS. Rocky Mountain Research Station.
      General Technical Report; RMRS-GTR-429.

    • The worldwide decline in bee populations is threatening the delivery of pollination services, thus leading to the development of pollinator restoration strategies. In the United States, one way to protect and restore bee populations is to use seed mixes composed of pollinator-friendly native plants to revegetate federal lands following disturbance.

      Scientists assessed the attractiveness and use by bees of 24 native plant species that are standard for revegetation projects (focal plants) on national forest lands in western Montana.

  • USDA Invests $6.8 Million for Research and Extension Grants on Pollinator Health

    • Jun 20, 2017
    • 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.”

  • Presidential Memorandum -- Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators

    • Jun 20, 2014
    • 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.

  • ARS Honey Bee Health and Colony Collapse Disorder

    • USDA. Agricultural Research Service.

  • Colony Collapse Disorder Overview

    • USDA. ARS. Bee Research Laboratory.

  • Honey Bee Surveys and Reports

    • 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.

  • Plant Pest and Disease Program: Honey Bees

    • USDA. APHIS. Plant Protection and Quarantine.

  • Pollinator Stories

    • DOI. Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • Pollinators

    • U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    • USDA supports the critical role pollinators play in agriculture through research and data collections, diagnostic services and pollinator health monitoring, pollinator habitat enhancement programs, and pollinator health grants.

  • Pollinators

    • USDA. Forest Service.

  • Protecting Bees and Other Pollinators from Pesticides

    • 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
  • Environment and Natural Resources State Bill Tracking Database

    • National Conference of State Legislatures.

    • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) tracks environment and natural resources legislation to bring you up-to-date, real-time information on bills (from 2015) that have been introduced in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Database provides search options by state (or territory), topic, keyword, year, status or primary sponsor. Topics include: Wildlife-Invasive Species and Wildlife-Pollinators.

  • Pollinator Health

    • National Conference of State Legislatures.

    • Includes a summary of federal and state actions (including state pollinator laws).

  • Pollinators

    • National Wildlife Federation.

    • Over 100,000 invertebrates—including bees, butterflies, beetles, moths, wasps, and flies—and more than a thousand mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians take on the job of pollinating plants. Pollinators worldwide are in decline, losing numbers to threats like pesticide poisoning, habitat loss, and disease. The loss of bee populations in particular poses a big risk to both our agricultural system and the ecosystem that supports other wildlife.