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 that 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)
Rodent and Bee, ca. 1890-1932 charcoal drawing by Charles Livingston Bull (May 1874-March 22, 1932)

 

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.

 

Amihai Mazar (born November 19, 1942), Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professor of Archaeology, reported in September 2007 discovery of Iron Age apiary at Tel Rehov, Beit She'an Valley, Northern District, northeastern Israel.

2007 image of eastward view of row of hives at Tel Rehov
2007 image of eastward view of row of hives at Tel Rehov

 

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 U.S. Department of Agriculture (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.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 11:52:26, image by Stephen Ausmus, Visual Information Specialist, USDA ARS
Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 11:52:26, image by Stephen Ausmus, Visual Information Specialist, USDA ARS

 

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, December 1872: 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 that arise about every 20 years since the 1860s and that carry the similar designations:

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

They assume the form of ghost vessels that -- 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.

In 1923, Rudolf Steiner also completed the third phase of his formulation of Anthroposophy ("wisdom of the human body"), which commenced in 1917.
In 1923, Rudolf Steiner also completed the third phase of his formulation of Anthroposophy ("wisdom of the human body"), which ...

 

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)

Denis L. Anderson of CSIRO Entomology and John W.H. Trueman of Australian National University described the new species in 2000.
Oct. 22, 2003, photo by Eric Erbe, colorized by Christopher Pooley, USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Oct. 22, 2003, photo by Eric Erbe, colorized by Christopher Pooley, 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.

Acknowledgment

 

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

 

Image Credits

 

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 that 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.z
ca. 1890-1932 charcoal drawing by Charles Livingston Bull (May 1874-March 22, 1932): Library of Congress (LOC) Cabinet of American Illustration Collection via LOC Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) @ http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2010715304/

Amihai Mazar (born November 19, 1942), Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professor of Archaeology, reported in September 2007 discovery of Iron Age apiary at Tel Rehov, Beit She'an Valley, Northern District, northeastern Israel.
2007 image of eastward view of row of hives at Tel Rehov: Hebrew University photo by Amihai Mazar, no usage restrictions, via EurekAlert @ https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/904592

Socially oriented, with lengthy interactions with humans dating back to prehistory, bees engage in trophallaxis (mouth-to-mouth transfer of food, etc.).
In 2011 U.S. Department of Agriculture (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.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 11:52:26, image by Stephen Ausmus, Visual Information Specialist, USDA ARS: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDAgov), CC BY 2.0, via Flickr @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/8411848415/

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: John-Andrew Ginsbury, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons @ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beekeepingaegypt.jpg

Mary Celeste at time of discovery of abandonment, December 1872: 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: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons @ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Celeste_engraving.jpg

Rudolf Steiner in 1923, the year in which he delivered his series of bee lectures, during which he predicted today's bee crisis.
In 1923, Rudolf Steiner also completed the third phase of his formulation of Anthroposophy ("wisdom of the human body"), which commenced in 1917.: CC BY SA 3.0, via Anthrowiki @ https://anthrowiki.at/Datei:Steiner1923.jpg

low temperature scanning electron micrograph of Varroa destructor on honey bee host: new species of Varroa mite, associated with European honeybee (Apis mellifera)
Denis L. Anderson of CSIRO Entomology and John W.H. Trueman of Australian National University described the new species in 2000.
Oct. 22, 2003, photo by Eric Erbe, colorized by Christopher Pooley, USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS): USDA ARS, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons @ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Varroa_destructor_on_honeybee_host.jpg

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.: Dave (Pollinator), CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons @ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bee_migration_9045.JPG

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: Jason Tester {Futuretester / Jason Tester}, CC BY ND 2.0, via Flickr @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/streamishmc/2648236088/

posters concerning Colony Collapse Disorder
posters by street artist ABCNT, Valencia Street, Mission District, east central San Francisco, northern California: Jason Tester {Futuretester / Jason Tester}, CC BY-ND 2.0, via Flickr @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/streamishmc/6181625230/

 

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

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poster concerning Colony Collapse Disorder

posters by street artist ABCNT, Valencia Street, Mission District, east central San Francisco, northern California
posters by street artist ABCNT, Valencia Street, Mission District, east central 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

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: 09/19/2022, DerdriuMarriner
 
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