Wikipedia defines CCD as "an abnormal phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a honey bee colony disappear, leaving behind a queen, plenty of food, and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees."
We were going through materials this week for the Celebration of Life and Legacy for UC Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, when we ran across his Oct. 9, 2007 presentation delivered as part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology's Distinguished Seminar Series.
We covered his seminar, which drew a capacity crowd and scores of questions. We still have his PowerPoint.
The news story bears repeating:
UC Davis honey bee specialist Eric Mussen fingered a line-up of prime suspects at his “BSI: The Case of the Disappearing Bees” lecture on Oct. 9, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology's Distinguished Seminar Series.
Mussen identified malnutrition, parasitic mites, infectious microbes and insecticide contamination as among the possible culprits. It's a complex issue, he said, but one thing is certain: “It seems unlikely that we will find a specific, new and different reason for why bees are dying.”
Colony collapse disorder (CCD), a phenomenon where bees mysteriously abandon their hives, is not a new occurrence, said Mussen, the Extension Apiculturist at UC Davis since 1976.
“Similar phenomena have been observed since 1869,” he said. “It persisted in 1963, 1964 and 1965 and was called Spring Dwindling, Fall Collapse and Autumn Collapse. Then in 1975, it was called Disappearing Disease.”
“But the disease wasn't what was disappearing,” Mussen quipped. “The bees were."
Massive bee die-off also occurred during the winter of 2004-05, but only those who read bee journals knew about it, Mussen told the crowd in the campus Activities Recreation Center. The latest die-off caught the attention of the national media last fall when a Pennsylvania beekeeper asked researchers at Pennsylvania State University to look at samples of his dying bees in Pennsylvania and Florida. “The local media picked up the story and the rest is history, including yours truly on the Lehrer Hour.”
One-third of America's honey bees vanished this past year due to the mysterious CCD, characterized by almost total hive abandonment. Nearly all adult worker bees unexpectedly fly away from the hive, abandoning the stored honey, pollen, larvae and pupae. Usually they leave in less than a week, and only the queen and a few young workers remain, Mussen said.
Honey bees normally do not abandon their brood, he said. “Nurse bees” continually feed the young, which increase 1,000-fold in size in six days.
“That's like an 8-pound baby weighing 4 tons in six days,” Mussen said.
Mussen, who received the American Association of Professional Apiculturists' excellence award in January for his bee industry leadership and apicultural research publications, and was named the California State Beekeepers' Association's 2006 “Beekeeper of the Year” for his industry-wide contributions, finds the silence of the bees troubling.
“The real reason bees are important is that we rely on them for crop pollination,“ he said. Commercial honey bees pollinate about 90 of the country's crops, valued at $15 billion.
“One third of our U.S. diet depends on honey bees,” Mussen said. “If bees produce fruits and vegetables somewhere else, do we (Americans) want to be as dependent on food as we are on oil?”
Bees are especially crucial to California's 600,000 acres of almonds, he said. To pollinate the almonds, growers need 1.2 million bee hives, “but California doesn't have 1.2 million bee hives, so they have to be trucked here.”
That, he said, can add to the bee stress.
Mussen linked malnutrition as a key factor in CCD. Honey bee nutrition is “weather dependent,” he said. “The best-fed bees are the healthiest, while malnourished bees are less resistant.”
Malnutrition and climate-linked issues include: Did local weather events affect pollen-producing plants negatively?
- Was there a lack of bloom (nectar and pollen) due to lack of rain or too much heat?
- Was there reduced access to flowers due to excess rain?
- Did cold nights interfere with meiosis that led to “sterile” or “non-viable” pollens?
- Do these types of pollen contain the usual proteins, vitamins, minerals and lipids required by the bees?
Mussen said that many regions in the United States experienced significant drought in 2006. “The U.S. honey crop was off 11 percent, one of the lowest on record. The California crop was off 30 percent; North and South Dakota crops were off nearly 15 and 40 percent respectively.”
If there's malnutrition in August and September, that adversely affects the winter bees, he said. A mix of quality pollens is required to rear healthy winter bees.
Unlike the California definition based on amount of water in the reservoirs, the beekeepers' definition of drought is: Is there enough soil moisture to keep the flowers growing? "This year there was not,” Mussen said.
Malnourished bees are more susceptible to disease, predators and insecticides, he pointed out. The Varroa destructor mites, introduced here in 1987 from the Asian bee (Apis cerana), spread across the country in five years, killing the American bee (Apis mellifera), known as the European bee.
Compared to fruit flies and mosquitoes, “bees have a limited immune system; they're pretty anemic,” he said.
Another problem: “Varroa mites have become resistant to most legal chemical controls that used to keep them in check.”
Mussen cast suspicion on several viruses as CCD factors: the Kashmir bee virus, acute bee paralysis virus, deformed wing virus, black queen cell virus and the Israel acute paralysis virus.
“Honey bees have about 20 known viruses, most of which can cause disease,” he said. Some viruses remain latent, just like chicken pox in humans, which can show up as shingles later in life.
USDA scientists found the Israeli acute paralysis virus, in nearly all of the CCD colonies they tested, but none in the control group. In addition, they found the Kashmir bee virus in all the CCD colonies tested.
Also found in all the CCD colonies tested were the infectious microbes Nosea ceranae and Nosema apis. N. ceranae, a relatively new fungal disease of American honey bees, was imported from the Asian honey bee, Apis cerana. N. apis, its American counterpart, has been around for at least a century.
A favorite suspect among the beekeepers is neonicotinoids, chemicals designed to mimic the toxic effects of a neurotoxin from the tobacco family. The nicotine-like insecticide kills fleas on cats and dogs, and is used as a seed treatment and in side dressing and foliar spray applications.
“The insecticides enter various plant tissues and become distributed, systemically, throughout the plant,” he said. “Nicotine is so toxic to humans that if you put a drop of pure nicotine on your finger, you're dead.”
Neonicotinoids have been formulated to be nearly non-toxic to mammals, birds, and fish but remain extremely toxic to invertebrates.
Laboratory studies showed that miniscule doses of neonicotinoids increased the rate of learning in bees, but at high doses, bees failed to respond to training.
“It wasn't memory loss; it was intoxication,” Mussen said. “They were drunk.”
Another suspect: Gaucho® (imidacloprid), used as a seed treatment on sunflowers. Beekeepers claimed that when bees visited sunflowers, they never returned to their hives; “they lost their memory.” France and Spain banned imidacloprid, but “bees are still failing in their hives,” Mussen noted.
Mussen said no scientific documentation exists to blame imidacloprid for the bee die-off. A study found only 5 parts per billion maximum in the nectar of sunflowers and canola, he said. The Bayer fact sheet indicates that the insecticide is toxic to honey bees at 192 ppb.
Among the more “quirky” explanations for CCD: cell phone usage, alien encounters, honey bee “rapture” (where hive populations “ascend to that big honeycomb in the sky en masse”); and chemtrails, aircraft-released vapors.
“Some thought chemtrails was a military-industrial complex plan to kill all children and old people — and got the bees and birds by mistake,” Mussen said.
Mussen said he hopes that the current fascination with honey bees will lead to more research and more research funding. (End of story)
(Editor's Note: Dr. Mussen, a 38-year California Cooperative Extension apiculturist and an invaluable member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, died Friday, June 3 at his home in Davis. He was 78. Attendance to the UC Davis-sponsored event celebrating his life and legacy is closed, but UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal will live-stream the event on Zoom. It will be permanently housed on YouTube. Registration for the Zoom webinar is underway at https://bit.ly/3dIyAhG. The YouTube account is at https://youtu.be/Kj5NuQ_rBuo. The webinar starts at 4 p.m. on Sunday. Aug. 28.)
UC Cooperative Extension specialist and agricultural entomologist Ian Grettenberger of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, assisted with the KQED Deep Look video, "Born Pregnant: Aphids Invade with an Onslaught of Clones," that won a nature award equivalent to an Oscar.
Grettenberger provided his expertise--and some aphids--working with digital video producer Josh Cassidy, senior video producer for KQED Science and the lead producer and cinematographer for Deep Look, a short-form nature series that illuminates fascinating stories in the natural world.
Cassidy's aphid video scored an international Jackson Wild Media Award, winning first place in the category, "Animal Behavior, Short Form video (17 minutes or less)."
In selecting it as the best film in its category, the judges related that it "most effectively explores animal behavior in an innovative and illuminating way."
The aphid video came about when Cassidy approached Grettenberger looking for researchers working on aphids. "I told him I wasn't working in the lab with aphids, but he could come check out my garden, which happened to be chock full of them," Grettenberger related.
"It was almost all shot at my house/garden," Grettenberger said. "With COVID being a thing, Josh got to sit in my garage and shoot aphid videos. I helped some to form the story, and the final shots of the developing larvae/parasitoid were some I took since Josh couldn't sit around waiting for the parasitoid larvae to develop." Grettenberger is pictured in one of the frames.
The video reveals that "female aphids are the matriarchs of a successful family operation--taking over your garden. But don't lose hope; these pests have some serious predators and creepy parasites looking to take them down."
Comments posted on YouTube include:
- "You guys are just nailing it with this production and sound effects. Amazing!!"
- "BRILLIANTLY DONE!! Makes you want to "love" aphids !!!"
- "One more amazing video from this amazing channel! You guys rock!"
- "Deep Look is a phenomenal YouTube channel. The videos are so beautiful. I can't believe how their team keeps making epic after epic biologically significant videos."
Cassidy, who holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology from Ohio University and pursued research on marine mammals, studied science and natural history filmmaking at San Francisco State University and Montana State University. A long-time member of the Deep Look team, he is known for his excellent work in creating innovative and fascinating videos. See some of his science videos here.
Grettenberger, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty in January, 2019, focuses his research on field and vegetable crops; integrated pest management; applied insect ecology, and biological control of pests. He holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Western Washington University and a doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University.
Grettenberger administers a YouTube channel on Pests and Natural Enemies. One of his most popular videos is his post on Lady Beetle Larvae and a Baby Aphid--Scoop, Scoop, Chomp Chomp: "A lady beetle larvae (Coccinella septempunctata--seven-spotted lady beetle) making short work of this baby aphid. You can see how they can eat *many* per day and help regulate aphid populations. (Predation part slowed down to 50%. They chow down more quickly). This is pea aphid, which can be a pest of alfalfa and other legume crops."
From KQED website: "KQED, a National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate in San Francisco, serves Northern California and beyond with a public-supported alternative to commercial TV, radio and web media. Funding for Deep Look is provided in part by PBS Digital Studios. Deep Look is a project of KQED Science, the largest science and environment reporting unit in California. KQED Science is supported by The National Science Foundation, the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, the Vadasz Family Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Campaign 21 and the members of KQED."
- She remembers eating fried grasshoppers at a party. "They're okay with a lot of spices!"
- She remembers watching Professor Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. and his wife, Ruth, give one another bee stings on their hands at Bee Biology, now the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. "I keep thinking about that as I get older!"
- She remembers learning about bees from Robbin Thorp (now a distinguished emeritus professor of entomology), who served on her thesis committee. "I still keep in touch!"
- And she remembers the time that a professor sparked her interest in biocontrol. Professor Les Ehler (1946-2016) "took a leaf out of his lunch cooler and held it in the air to show us some aphids on it, and a wasp appeared and parasitized them." He laughed and said "That's how it's done!"
"Wow! Cool!" she thought as the wasp parasitized the aphids.
Rachael went on to receive her master's degree in entomology in 1987 (studying with major professor James R. Carey); to join the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources as a UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) farm adviser for field crops and pest management for the three-county area of Yolo, Solano and Sacramento; and to develop and share her interests in biocontrol and other topics.
And this week the UC Davis alumnus-UCCE farm adviser was named the recipient of the 2019 Bradford Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award. She will receive the award at a presentation at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 28 in the Alpha Gamma Rho Hall (AGR) room of the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. A reception begins at 4.
The award presentation prefaces the Agricultural Sustainability Institute's Distinguished Speakers' Seminar, “Building a Better World, the Opportunity to Achieve Climate Drawdown and a Safe Future" by environmental scientist Jonathan Foley, executive director of Drawdown. Foley, ranked by Thomas Reuters as among the top 1 percent of the most cited global scientists, will address the crowd from 5 to 6 p.m.
Rachael is a native of Berkeley and the daughter of a UC Berkeley biology professor. She received her bachelor's degree in biology from UC Berkeley.
In 1992 she accepted a position as a pest management, low input systems UCCE adviser for Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties. This was one of the first sustainable agricultural adviser positions within UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), with a focus on developing programs to manage pests in field crops with minimal impacts to the environment.
When Rachael started her projects 27 years ago, her ideas were considered “way outside the box and on the fringe,” she recalled. Now her work is mainstream with the UC Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) guidelines incorporating the value of habitat planting for enhancing natural enemies and pollinators on farms for better pollination and biocontrol of crop pests.
Long's research focuses on enhancing natural enemies for better biocontrol of crop pests. "Hedgerows are important for enhancing beneficial insects, including bees and natural enemies, for better biocontrol and crop pollination in adjacent field crops, with measurable economic benefits," she says. "Hedgerows can pay off after 16 years for pest control and seven ears if pollination benefits are added in for bees. Bats and birds associated with habitat likewise have economic benefits for helping to control key codling moth pests in walnut orchards."
Long, who worked closely with Charlie Rominger, commented: “I think Charlie would have been excited by this work. When I first started my job, we spent time in the field looking at field edge habitat and all the birds and beneficial insect activity and wondered about their benefits to crop production. Now we know! Lots of positive ecosystem services associated with habitat! Eric Bradford would have likewise been impressed with work that involved 20 plus years of meticulous research work by strong teams committed to data collection, to document the benefits of field edge habitat to agriculture.”
She and her colleagues have published 14 peer-reviewed papers on hedgerow research. Her work, with colleagues Kelly Garbach of Point Blue Conservation Science, and Lora Morandin of the Pollinator Partnership, can be summarized in their research article, "Hedgerow Benefits Align with Food Production and Sustainability Goals," published in September 2017 in California Agriculture. Her most recent paper appeared in UC ANR's special global food initiative edition of California Agriculture.
In addition to her research, Long has delivered hundreds of presentations about the importance of hedgerows on farms; conducted and published surveys on how to better reach out to the grower community to enhance the adoption of hedgerow plantings, as well as the importance of bats, birds, and raptors on farms; and has mentored many undergraduate and graduate students.
Long brings teams of researchers together to work on projects focusing on agriculture and ecosystem services, which lead to enhanced conservation on farms. In 2013, she and her colleagues received the California epartment of Pesticide Regulation IPM Innovator Award for work on hedgerows and pest management. She was also a pioneer in developing practices for protecting water quality from non-point source pollution from agricultural runoff in the early 2000s.
Long is also a children's book author of the Black Rock Desert Trilogy (three books): “Gold Fever,” “Valley of Fire” and “River of No Return,” works published by Yorkshire Publishing. They are the end result of telling stories to her son, Eugene, about an adventuresome, kind-hearted, wildlife-loving boy named Jack and three of his friends--a bat named Pinta, a coyote named Sonny and a crow named Midas. She dedicated the books to Eugene ("he heard the stories first") and her husband, David ("for always being there.") (See Bug Squad blog)
The May 28 event is free and open to the public. For reservations, access this website.
That's not to say you'll see beneficial insects doing their thing—but you might.
The event, a walk and talk, is “Scouting Out the Hedgerows on the DH Long Farm,” set from 10 a.m. to noon at 8304 County Road 91B, Zamora. Coffee and snacks will be available at 9:45.
The workshop, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), Solano Resource Conservation District (RCD), Colusa County RCD, and the Yolo County RCD. Attendees are asked to wear "good walking shoes and a hat" and bring water.
The event begins at 10 with a welcome by Laurel Sellers, UCCE project assistant, Yolo County, who will provide a DPR grant project update.
Next to speak will be John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms, Winters, at 10:10. His topic is “Land of Milkweed and Honey: A Walk Into Beneficial Insect Habitat.”
Anderson will be followed at 10:35 by Sellers speaking on “Rodent Activity and Hedgerows: What's the Correlation?” Sellers is a master's degree candidate in international agricultural development, UC Davis.
Then at 10:55, Kristina Wolf, a doctoral candidate in entomology at UC Davis, will cover “Raptors, Rodents and Reptiles, What's in Restored Grasslands?”
Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Yolo County, will offer her insights on “Establishing Hedgerows: Protecting Crops with Insect Predators and Parasitoids” at 11:15.
Following Long's talk, Kelly Garbach of Loyola University, Chicago, will share “Hedgerow Survey Highlights.” A summary and audience review will follow.
For more information, contact Rachael Long at firstname.lastname@example.org.