Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Buzz on Honey Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder

The busily buzzing honey bee; hard at work, the tiny insect floats its way over fields of crops retrieving nectar to bring back to the hive. Their dance is a perfectly orchestrated production, from which honey is created. Beyond their life’s labor of making and storing honey, the bees are also nature’s own cultivator. Along their travels from flower to flower, they pollinate plants, igniting the growth of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. In fact, according to, one out of every three bites the average American eats is directly attributed to honey bee pollination.

Over the past three years, honey bees have been struck with a crisis that is causing their colonies to die off at a mysteriously alarming rate. With much of the growth of our nation’s natural food supply reliant on the work of the bees—a job that could never be equally created by man, their increasing absence is an obvious cause for concern. The fruit of the honey bee’s labor is the fruit on our plates; without them we are without earth’s most delicious treasures.

Colony Collapse Disorder:

A large portion of the honey bee losses can be attributed to what is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Colonies that experience CCD simply disappear from their hives and die. In a very good, short documentary-style video, Serious Eats talks to farmers and cooks at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester County, New York, about the crisis. In it, Jack Algiere, Stone Barns four season grower, describes CCD. “With CCD the bees don’t find their way back to the hive and thus, don’t make more honey, don’t make more bees, and don’t get out to pollinate again. That hive will then collapse on itself because it can’t sustain its existence.” This is the little understood, sad reality, currently being reported across the United States and in other countries as well. A bee keeper can be tending to a full hive one day, and find it completely empty the next.

Although the exact cause of CCD is still a mystery, researchers have come upon several factors that may be contributing to the problem including viruses, mites, poor nutrition, and chemical exposure. Other theories point the finger at cell phone radiation, bad weather, and climate change. One thing is for sure: an increase in awareness and continued research is essential to eventually saving the honey bees and our crops.

Help the Honey Bees:

Haagen Dazs is a major advocate for the honey bees, as they depend on their pollination for many of their ingredients. All proceeds from the sales of their bee-reliant flavors and their specially created Vanilla Honey Bee ice cream go towards funding research. A yummy reward for a good deed! The website is run by the ice cream company to educate and bring awareness to the cause. Visit to find out more about the crisis, as well as how to plant your own honey bee-friendly garden, support local beekeepers, donate to various research facilities, and create your own honey bee like the one at the top of this post to share and spread the word about our troubled pollinating friends.


Cajun Chef Ryan said...

Very informative and thank you for posting this serious condition that bees suffer. Without the little buzz pollinator makers most crops would mature into edible products. The miracle of nature that the bees create would cost way too much to duplicate with human hands and machinery in today's economic climate.

Not to mention that honey is one of the great natural medicines that many overlook.

Bon appetit!

Marisa said...

Thanks Chef Ryan! And very good point!