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Honey Bee Issues

Unfortunately, there are many challenges bees (and their keepers) face in modern day beekeeping, making it all the more important for commercial beekeepers and hobbyists alike to keep current with research and best practices.




Must Watch

Marla Spivak gives an amazing TED Talk where she explains why bees are disappearing. (June 2013) 

Why you should listen to Marla: Bees pollinate a third of our food supply — they don’t just make honey! — but colonies have been disappearing at alarming rates in many parts of the world due to the accumulated effects of parasitic mites, viral and bacterial diseases, and exposure to pesticides and herbicides. Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota professor of entomology and 2010 MacArthur Fellow, tries as much as possible to think like bees in her work to protect them. They’re “highly social and complex” creatures, she says, which fuels her interest and her research. 

Spivak has developed a strain of bees, the Minnesota Hygienic line, that can detect when pupae are infected and kick them out of the nest, saving the rest of the hive.

Now, Spivak is studying how bees collect propolis, or tree resins, in their hives to keep out dirt and microbes. She is also analyzing how flowers’ decline due to herbicides, pesticides and crop monoculture affect bees’ numbers and diversity. Spivak has been stung by thousands of bees in the course of her work.

Threats to Bees 

The honey bee faces many challenges in today's economy. 

  •     MITES    
  •     BEETLES    
  •     DISEASE    

Varroa Mites

Mites can have devastating effects.

Parasitic Varroa Mites are the greatest threat to beekeeping. And although these mites can be kept under control by a persistent beekeeper, the negative effects on the honey bee population has been devastating. Mites are greatly reducing the overall honey bee population in the USA. The mites are of no concern to humans, except for the effect they can have on honey production and honey bee health.



Small Hive Beetles

Information below from Wikipedia.

The small hive beetle can be a destructive pest of honey bee colonies, causing damage to comb, stored honey, and pollen. If a beetle infestation is sufficiently heavy, they may cause bees to abandon their hive.

The primary damage to colonies and stored honey caused by the small hive beetle is through the feeding activity of the larvae. Hives and stored equipment with heavy infestations of beetles have been described as a mess.

A summary taken from various reports of damage caused by these beetles is listed below:

  • Larvae tunnel through comb with stored honey or pollen, damaging or destroying cappings and comb.
  • Larvae defecate in honey, and the honey becomes discolored from the feces.
  • Activity of the larvae causes fermentation and a frothiness in the honey; the honey develops a characteristic odor of decaying oranges.
  • Damage and fermentation cause honey to run out of combs, creating a mess in hives or extracting rooms.
  • Heavy infestations cause bees to abscond; some beekeepers have reported the rapid collapse of even strong colonies.


The small hive beetle is considered a secondary pest in South Africa, and as such, has not been the subject of major control efforts. The beetle is most often found in weak or failing hives and rarely affects strong hives. However, differences in the housecleaning traits of the bees found in South Africa and the U.S. may mean very different responses to the beetles. Some early reports from Florida and South Carolina suggest the beetles may be more damaging there than in Africa. Para-dichlorobenzene (PDB) has been used for protecting empty stored combs. 

2nd Photo: Comb slimed by hive beetle larvae. Hives infested at this level will drive out bee colonies.



Be on the look out; diseases can be managed.

Beekeepers are on the watch for various diseases unique to honeybees (which are all harmless to humans). “Foul Brood” and “Nosema” are two such diseases. These problems can be addressed by good management and proper medication.

Photo: Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright


Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

Well covered in the media over the past few years, CCD is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or honey bee colony abruptly disappear. While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, and were known by various names (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease), the syndrome was renamed colony collapse disorder in late 2006 in conjunction with a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honeybee colonies in North America.

The mechanisms of CCD and the reasons for its increasing prevalence remain unclear, but many possible causes have been proposed: pesticides (in particular, those of the neonicotinoid class); infections with Varroa and Acarapis mites; malnutrition; various pathogens;genetic factors; immunodeficiencies; loss of habitat; changing beekeeping practices; electromagnetic radiation from electronic communication devices; or a combination of factors.

Photo: Credit: © Greenpeace / Bas Beentjes

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