Colony collapse disorder FAQs

Saturday, April 28, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:43 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Q The beekeeping industry has experienced heavy losses of colonies in the past. Is this something new?

A Symptoms similar to colony collapse disorder have been described in the past, and heavy losses have been documented. The condition has received many different names over the years including autumn collapse, May disease, spring dwindle, disappearing disease and fall dwindle disease. Whether the current die-off is being caused by the same factors that caused heavy losses in the past or if new factors are involved is not yet clear.

Q What can I do to reduce the likelihood of being affected by colony collapse disorder?

A Keep colonies strong by practicing best management practices. Don’t stack dead or weak colonies on strong colonies. Feed colonies fumigillin in the spring.

Q How do I know if a colony has colony collapse disorder?

A Colonies affected by colony collapse disorder have the following characteristics: The complete absence of adult bees in the hive with no or little build-up of dead bees in the hive or at the hive entrances and the presence of food stores, both honey and bee bread, which is not immediately robbed by other bees. Invasion of common hive pests such as wax moth and small hive beetle is noticeably delayed in dead-out equipment left in the field. (In some cases, the queen and a small number of survivor bees are present in the brood nest.)

Q What are the early signs of colony collapse disorder?

A In cases where the colony appears to be actively collapsing: There is an insufficient workforce to maintain the brood that is present; the workforce seems to be made up of young adult bees; the queen is present, appears healthy and is usually still laying eggs; the cluster is reluctant to consume feed provided by the beekeeper, such as sugar syrup and protein supplement; and foraging populations are greatly reduced/nonexistent.

Q What potential causes of colony collapse disorder is the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group investigating?

A The current research priorities under investigation by members of the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group, as well as other cooperators, include, but are not limited to: chemical residue/contamination in the wax, food stores and bees; known and unknown pathogens in the bees and brood; parasite load in the bees and brood; nutritional fitness of the adult bees; level of stress in adult bees as indicated by stress-induced proteins; and lack of genetic diversity and lineage of bees.

Q Is honey from colony collapse disorder colonies safe to eat?

A To date there is no evidence that colony collapse disorder affects honey. The impact of colony collapse disorder appears to be limited to adult bees

Q What are examples of topics that the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group is not currently investigating?

A Genetically modified organism crops: Some GMO crops, specifically Bt Corn, have been suggested as a potential cause of colony collapse disorder. While this possibility has not been ruled out, colony collapse disorder symptoms do not fit what would be expected in Bt-affected organisms. For this reason GMO crops are not a “top” priority at the moment.

Radiation transmitted by cell towers: The distribution of both affected and nonaffected colony collapse disorder apiaries does not make this a likely cause. Also, cell phone service is not available in some areas where affected commercial apiaries are located in the West. For this reason, it is not a top priority.

Source: The Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium at:

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