Colony Collapse Disorder and Common Western Honeybees (Apis mellifera) in Europe and North America

by DerdriuMarriner

Abandoning honey, larvae, and queen does not seem bee-like. But it is happening in hives diagnosed with colony collapse disorder. Research so far yields no definitive action plans.

Beehives act as homes for apian populations, nurseries for eggs and larvae, storehouses for nectar and pollen, and warehouses for honey. They appear beautiful because of their interconnecting series of homemade, multi-purpose six-sided cells. They are clean because of the long hours of female-gendered, multi-tasking worker bees.

Beehives brim with comings and goings year-round. Even in winter, bees bustle in and out since bathroom duty takes place outside the hive.

Entries and exits nevertheless configure temporary missions when apian homebodies follow proper procedures in their life cycles and natural histories. Exceptions come along when male-gendered drones are expelled during resource-poor winters and new queens are identified. That is why hive-abandoned colony collapse disorder so worries experts worldwide.

Natural reasons, such as bee fastidiousness, may impel colony collapse: In Lecture V, delivered on December 5, 1923, of his bee series, Rudolf Steiner shared about empty hive which was found to have been abandoned because mouse invader had died in hive ~

Dr. Steiner discovered that the bees had encased the corpse in wax and other substances, to contain the putrid smell, before their exodus.
"Rodent and Bee": ca. 1890 - 1932 charcoal drawing by Charles Livingston Bull (May 1874 - March 22, 1932): Cabinet of American illustration Collection
"Rodent and Bee": ca. 1890 - 1932 charcoal drawing by Charles Livingston Bull (May 1874 - March 22, 1932): Cabinet of American ...


Beekeeping counts among the world’s oldest professions. Scientists generally date the emergence of honey-making bees to 23,000,000 – 56,000,000 years ago. They still debate emergence locations since fossils are better preserved in European deposits than in South and Southeast Asia’s suspected apian birthplaces. They likewise disagree over emergence dates and locations for honey-gatherers. But they usually give to honey-gathering occupational continuums of 15,000 years. Rock paintings concerning honey-gathering go back to 13,000 B.C.E. The earliest known evidence of community-intended, group-orchestrated beekeeping nevertheless goes back:

  • 3,000 years to Israel’s industrial apiary at Tel Rehov;
  • 4,500 years to Egyptian art inside Pharaoh Nyuserre Ini’s (died 2421 B.C.) pyramid at Abusir;
  • 5,500 years to honey-filled vessels inside a Georgian noblewoman’s sepulcher.


Detail of a Bee Hieroglyph from the tomb complex of Senusret I, who ruled from 1971 BC to 1926 BC as second pharaoh of Egypt's Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt.

Bee symbolized Lower Egypt, known as Ta-Mehu ("land of papyrus").
bee depiction in ancient Egypt
bee depiction in ancient Egypt


Most famous among the world’s honey-making bees are honeybees. They belong to the genus Apis, whose etymology possibly backtracks to the word bjt (“honeybee”) from ancient Egypt north of Memphis. Their formal description for Europe-based amateurs and professionals dates to 1758. It draws upon the pioneering ecology and taxonomy of Småland-born Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist Carl Linnaeus (May 23, 1707 – January 10, 1778). It functions as an introduction to scientific nomenclature, not to unknown species. Honeybees number among the world’s longstanding fauna everywhere except Antarctica. As the species Apis nearctica described by Michael S. Engel, Ismael A. Hinojosa-Díaz, and Alexandr P. Rasnitsyn in 2009, they went extinct in America before the time of seventeenth-century European colonizations.


Socially oriented, with lengthy interactions with humans dating back to prehistory, bees engage in trophallaxis (mouth-to-mouth transfer of food, etc.):

In 2011 USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists studied transfer of food or other fluids among members of bee community through mouth-to-mouth feeding as possible facilitator of colony collapse disorder.
USDA photo by Stephen Ausmus
USDA photo by Stephen Ausmus


Biogeography historically assumes reassuring proportions for the day-active, hive-resting arthropods. Healthy distributions and populations give the nectar-drinking, pollen-gathering insects membership within a genus subdivided into:

  • 3 subgenera;
  • 44 subspecies.

South and Southeast Asia’s canopy- and cliff-nesting subgenus, Megapis, harbors only Apis dorsata giants (Johan Christian Fabricius [January 7, 1745 – March 3, 1808], 1793). South and Southeast Asia’s shrub- and tree-nesting subgenus, Micrapis, hosts:

  • Black dwarf Apis andreniformis (Frederick Smith [December 30, 1805 – February 16, 1879], 1858);
  • Red dwarf Apis florea (Fabricius, 1787).

Africa’s and Eurasia’s cave-nesting subgenus, Apis, includes:

  • Asiatic/eastern Apis cerana (Fabricius, 1793);  
  • Black-belted Apis nigrocincta (Smith, 1861);
  • European/western Apis mellifera (Linnaeus, 1758);
  • Koschevnikov’s Apis koschevnikovi 1906 (Günther Enderlein [July 7, 1872 – August 11, 1968], 1906).


ancient African bees: depiction of honey harvest in tube sticks in sun temple for Nyuserre Ini, who reigned ca. 2445–2421 BC in ancient Egypt's 5th Dynasty

Abusir ("the House or Temple of Osiris"): north of Memphis and Saqqara, south of Cairo
Abusir ("the House or Temple of Osiris"): north of Memphis and Saqqara, south of Cairo


Common, European, western honeybees (Apis mellifera) historically account for the largest biogeographics and demographics of all of the species within the apian genus Apis. They claim more than half of all known Apis subspecies. The subspecies fall into 4 main distribution ranges. Africa gets as apian subspecies:

  • Apis mellifera adamsonii;
  • A.m. capensis;
  • A.m. jemenitica/yemenitica;
  • A.m. lamarckii;
  • A.m. litorea;
  • A.m. major;
  • A.m. monticola;
  • A.m. scutellata;
  • A.m. unicolor.

Asia has as subspecies:

  • A.m. adamii;
  • A.m. anatoliaca;
  • A.m. armeniaca;
  • A.m. caucasica;
  • A.m. cypria;
  • A.m. meda.
  • A.m. syriaca.  

European subspecies include:

  • A.m. carnica;
  • A.m. cecropia;
  • A.m. iberica;
  • A.m. ligustica;
  • A.m. lihzeni;
  • A.m. macedonica;
  • A.m. mellifera;
  • A.m. ruttneri;
  • A.m. sicula.

Territories sometimes overlap, as with Africa- and Europe-based intermissa and sahariensis subspecies.


Mary Celeste at time of discovery of abandonment: Colony Collapse Disorder is analogized to Mary Celeste syndrome of ghostly, well-stocked interior ~

ca. 1870 - 1890 engraving by Rudolph Ruzicka (June 29, 1883 - July 20, 1978)
Atlantic Ocean, about 600 miles (1,000 km) west of Portugal, toward Strait of Gibraltar
Atlantic Ocean, about 600 miles (1,000 km) west of Portugal, toward Strait of Gibraltar


Current expressions of colony collapse disorder afflict the most numerous and widespread of honey-makers: common, western honeybees in Europe and North America. They appear to repeat hive-centered problems which arise about every 20 years since the 1860s and which carry the similar designations:

  • Autumn/spontaneous hive collapse;
  • Disappearing/May disease;
  • Fall/spring dwindle;
  • Mary Celeste syndrome.

They assume the form of ghost vessels which -- like the British merchant brigantine of December 5, 1872 -- exhibit non-ransacked, well-stocked interiors, but -- unlike the Mary Celeste -- remain populated, albeit sparsely by

  • An unattended queen;
  • Her unhatched young.

They articulate atypical delays before hive-plundering by:

  • Predatory lesser wax moths (Achroia grisella) and small hive beetles (Aethina tumida);
  • Proximitous healthy bee colonies.


Rudolf Steiner in 1923, the year in which he delivered his series of bee lectures, during which he predicted today's bee crisis. > Zeittafel zu Leben und Werk von Rudolf Steiner > Dritte Entwicklungsphase der Anthroposophie (1917-1923) > Zeittafel zu Leben und Werk von Rudolf Steiner > Dritte Entwicklungsphase der Anthroposophie (1917-1923)


Colony collapse disorder augurs honeybee extinctions in the 1970s – 2020s, as predicted by Austrian anthroposophist/biodynamicist Dr. Rudolf Steiner (February 27, 1861 – March 30, 1925). Steinerian problem-solving emphasizes:

  • Aerated hives;
  • Balanced silicic and uric acids;
  • Circadian-defined operations;
  • Compost- and manure-fed plants;
  • Traditional nectars and pollens.

All 6 prescriptions focus upon beekeeper problem-avoiding inputs toward:

  • Integrities of beehives;
  • Interconnectedness of food webs and soils;
  • Unities of broods, drones, queens, and workers.

Today’s commercial and hobbyist beekeepers respectively implicate:

  • Pests (Acarapis woodi and Varroa destructor mites, Apocephalus borealis flies);
  • Starvation.

Researchers rebuke:

  • Brood-incubated breeding;
  • Cross-country pollination;
  • Force-pollinated fruits;
  • High-fructose syrups with genetically-modified, imidacloprid-treated corn and without pesticide-detoxifying p-coumaric acid;
  • Pathogens (Nosema ceranae fungi);
  • Pesticides (clothianidin, coumaphos, fipronil, fluvalinate, glyphosate, thiamethoxam).


Low temperature scanning electron micrograph of Varroa destructor on honey bee host: new species of Varroa mite, associated with European honeybee (Apis mellifera) ~

Described in 2000 by Denis L. Anderson of CSIRO Entomology and John W.H. Trueman of Australian National University.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

Conclusion: How to recapture a sweet future for honeybees?


Those who are allergic to bee stings cannot remain indifferent to colony collapse disorder. Many of the foods which they enjoy indeed exist because of bee interventions:

  • Almonds;
  • Apples;
  • Blackberries;
  • Canteloupes;
  • Cherries;
  • Cranberries;
  • Cucumbers;
  • Peaches;
  • Pears;
  • Raspberries;
  • Strawberries;
  • Watermelons.

In the face of such a disquieting situation as bee mortalities, scientists have to remain dispassionate, focused, and logical. That probably is the reason why they consider as a solution training other honey-makers -- such as bumble (Bombus spp), and mason (Osmia spp) bees -- to assist and ultimately replace common European honeybees. But such an action plan leaves unsolved problems which apparently inhere in modern beekeeping and which require Steinerian resolutions:

  • Artificial inputs;
  • Circadian disruptions;
  • Environmental stress.


Making a beeline for Maine from South Carolina: long haul of door-to-door transportation to Maine for pollination of blueberries

US migratory beekeepers load tractor-trailer with cargo of bees for transport to Maine for blueberry pollination.
US migratory beekeepers load tractor-trailer with cargo of bees for transport to Maine for blueberry pollination.



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Corporate concerns for bees ~ Häagen-Dazs®, founded in Bronx, New York, in 1961, and headquartered cross-country in Oakland, northern California, relies on honeybees for honey and pollinated-plant fruits for pure ingredients in ice cream et al. products:

Since 2008 Häagen-Dazs® has contributed more than $1 million to honeybee research; in 2009, Häagen-Dazs® established Häagen-Dazs® Honey Bee Haven, 1/2-acre bee friendly garden at University of California-Davis.
Whole Foods Market, South of Market (SoMa), central San Francisco, northern California
Whole Foods Market, South of Market (SoMa), central San Francisco, northern California

Sources Consulted


Aikin, R.C. 1897. "Bees Evaporated; A New Malady." Gleanings in Bee Culture 25:479-480.

Belknap, Cindy. 2010. The Complete Guide to Beekeeping for Fun & Profit: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply. Ocala, FL: Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.

Bendahou, N.; Fleche, C.; and Bounias, M. 1999. "Biological and Biochemical Effects of
Chronic Exposure to Very Low Levels of Dietary Cypermethrin (Cymbush) on Honeybee
Colonies (Hymenoptera: Apidae)." Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 44:147-153.

Benjamin, Alison; Holpuch, Amanda; and Spencer, Ruth. 30 July 2013. "Buzzfeeds: The Effects of Colony Collapse Disorder and Other Bee News." The Guardian: US Edition > Environment. Retrieved September 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Benjamin, Allison; and McCallum, Brian. 2011. Bees in the City: The Urban Beekeepers' Handbook. Guardian Books.

Benjamin, Allison; and McCallum, Brian. 2009. A World Without Bees. New York, NY: Pegasus Books LLC.

Betts, A.D. 1919. "Fungus Diseases of Bees." Bee World 1:132.

Bonney, Richard E. 1993. Beekeeping: A Practical Guide. Pownal, VT: Storey Books.

Bortolotti, L.; Montanari, R.; Marcelino, J.; Medrzycki, P.; Maini, S.; and Porrini, C. 2003.
"Effects of Sub-lethal Imidacloprid Doses on the Homing Rate and Foraging Activity of
Honey Bees." Bulletin of Insectology 56:63-67.

Burnside, C.E. 1930. "Fungous Diseases of the Honeybee." U.S. Department of Agriculture
Technical Bulletin 149:1-43.

Carr, E.G. 1918. "An Unusual Disease of Honey Bees." Journal of Economic Entomology

Cox, R.L.; and Wilson, W.T. 1984. "Effects of Permethrin on the Behavior of Individually
Tagged Honey Bees, Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae)." Environmental
Entomology 13:375-378.

Crane, Eva. 1999. The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting. New York, NY and Abingdon, England: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.

Engel, Michael S.; Hinojosa-Díaz, Ismael A.; and Rasnitsyn, Alexandr P. 2009. “A Honey Bee from the Miocene in Nevada and the Biogeography of Apis (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Apini).” Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 460(3):23-38.

Flottum, Kim. 2005. The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden. Gloucester, MA: Quarry Books.

Foote, H.L. 1966. "The Mystery of the Disappearing Bees." American Bee Journal 106:126-

"Georgian Scientists Consider Georgian Honey Older than Egyptian." Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company: News > March 29, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Giauffret, A.; and Tahercio, Y.P. 1967. "Les mycoses de l'Abeille (Apis mellifica L.) étude de
quelques antimycosiques." Bulletin Apicole 10:163-174.

Hall, Derek. Bees & Bee-keeping. New York, NY: Chartwell Books, Inc.

"Honey Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder." United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service: News. Retrieved September 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Hubbell, Sue. 1988. A Book of Bees. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.; Toronto, Canada: Random House of Canada Limited.

Huff, Ethan A. 7 September 2014. "Groundbreaking Study Shows That Roundup Causes Honeybees to Starve." NaturalNews. Retrieved September 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Jacobsen, Rowan. 2008. Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA.

Jones, Richard A.; and Sweeney-Lynch, Sharon. 2011. The Beekeeper’s Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses. New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

Kauffeld, N.M. 1973. “Disappearing Disease…a Longevity Problem?” Agricultural Research 22:14.

Kluger, Jeffrey. 7 October 2010. "The Riddle of the Bee Deaths: Solved At Last?" Time: Food. Retrieved September 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Kulinčević, J.M.; Rothenbuhler, W.C.; and Rinderer, T.E. 1982. "Disappearing Disease. Part I.
Effects of Certain Protein Sources Given to Honey-bee Colonies in Florida." American Bee
Journal 122:189-191.

Kulinčević, J.M.; Rothenbuhler, W.C.; and Rinderer, T.E. 1983. "Disappearing Disease. II.
Effects of Certain Protein Sources on Brood Rearing and Length of Life in the Honey Bee
under Laboratory Conditions." American Bee Journal 123:50-53

Kulinčević, J.M.; Rothenbuhler, W.C.; and Rinderer, T.E. 1984. "Disappearing Disease: III. A
Comparison of Seven Different Stocks of the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)." The Ohio State
University Research Bulletin 1160. Wooster, OH: Ohio Agricultural Research and Development

Lomsadze, Giorgi. 30 March 2012. "Report: Georgia Unearths the World's Oldest Honey." EurasiaNet: Regions > Georgia > Tamada Tales, a Daily Feast of News from the South Caucasus. The Open Society Institute. Retrieved September 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Maassen, A. 1906. "Die Aspergillusmykose der Bienen." Mitteilungen aus der Kaiserlichen
Biologischen Anstalt für Land- und Forstwirtschaft 2:30-31.

Morse, R.A.; and Flottum, K. (Eds.). 1997. Honey Bee Pests, Predators, and Diseases. Third Edition. Medina, OH: The A. I. Root Company.

Nordhaus, Hannah. 2011. The Beekeeper's Lament. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Oertel, E. 1965. "Many Bee Colonies Die of an Unknown Cause." American Bee Journal 105:48-

Olley, K., 1976. "Those Disappearing Bees." American Bee Journal 116:520-521.

"Pesticide Issues in the Works: Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder." United States Environmental Protection Agency: Pesticides > About Pesticides > Pesticide Issues in the Works. Retrieved September 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Rana, B.S.; and Hamid, M.T. 1988. "Occurrence of Some Fungal Parasites on Bees (Apis
mellifera L.) Comb -- A New Report. Indian Bee Journal 50:23.

Ransome, Hilda M. 2004. The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

Readicker-Henderson, Edward. 2009. A Short History of the Honey Bee: Humans, Flowers, and Bees in the Eternal Chase for Honey. Images by Ilona McCarty. Portland, OR and London, England: Timber Press, Inc.

Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture for the year 1868. Washington, D.C.: U. S.
Government Printing Office.

Roberge, F. 1978. "The Case of the Disappearing Honeybees." National Wildlife 16:34-35.

Sammataro, Diana; and Avitabile, Alphonse. 1998. The Beekeeper's Handbook. Third Edition. Ithaca, NY and London, England: Cornell University Press Comstock Paperbacks. 

Steiner, Rudolf. 1998. Bees. Lectures by Rudolf Steiner Translated from the German Über die Bienen by Thomas Braatz. Great Barrington, MA: Anthroposophic Press.

Stiglitz, Dean; and Herboldsheimer, Laurie. 2010. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.: Alpha.

Toothman, Jessika. 9 June 2008. "How Colony Collapse Disorder Works." HowStuffWorks: Animals > Wild Animals > Insects & Arachnids > Insects. Retrieved September 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Underwood, Robyn N.; and van Engelsdorp, Dennis. 17 May 2007. "Colony Collapse Disorder: Have We Seen This Before?" Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium.

Vandame, R.; Meled, M.; Colin, M.E.; and Belzunces, L.P. 1995. "Alteration of the Homing-flight
in the Honeybee Apis mellifera L. Exposed to Sublethal Dose of Deltamethrin." Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 14:855-860.

Walsh, Bryan. 7 May 2013. "Beepocalypse Redux: Honeybees Are Still Dying -- and We Still Don't Know Why." Time: Food. Retrieved September 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Wilson, W.T.; and Menapace, D.M. 1979. "Disappearing Disease of Honey Bees: A Survey of
the United States." American Bee Journal 119:Part I:118-119, Part II:184-186, 217.

Wilson-Rich, Noah. 2014. The Bee: A Natural History. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Witherell, P.C. 1975. "Conference on the Disappearing Disease of Honey Bees." American Bee
Journal 115:300. 


Poster concerning Colony Collapse Disorder

San Francisco, northern California
San Francisco, northern California
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Bees by Rudolf Steiner

In 1923 Rudolf Steiner predicted the dire state of the honeybee today. He said that, within fifty to eighty years, we would see the consequences of mechanizing the forces that had previously operated organically in the beehive.
Rudolf Steiner books

The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson-Rich

Bees pollinate more than 130 fruit, vegetable, and seed crops that we rely on to survive. Bees are crucial to reproduction and diversity of flowering plants. The economic contributions of these irreplaceable insects measure in tens of billions annually.
bee-themed books

Garden - Bee Happy: banana-colored t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

Garden - Bee Happy
Ad AllPosters

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 10/19/2021, DerdriuMarriner
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login

You might also like

Monkey Parchment Coffee: Biodynamic Methods and Cosmic Cycles ...

Southwest Indian biodynamic, organic growers call their product Monkey Parchm...

Black Ivory Coffee and Elephants (Elephas maximus indicus) at ...

Elephant coffee is a form of animal coffee. It owes aroma and taste to animal...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...