The sudden death of bees across the world from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has confounded scientists and bee keepers across the world. The movie Vanishing of The Bees set out to explore this phenomenon by following two beekeepers David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes as they struggle with the disorder. The film also features interviews about the disorder with a wide range of people including leading bee scientists and author Michael Pollan. For more on Colony Collapse Disorder, see Huff Post blogger George Heymont's review of this film and other CCD documentaries. You can find a local screening of the film through the film's website.
Today, live on the Huff Post from 2pm to 3pm EST, directors of Vanishing of The Bees, George Langworthy and Maryam Henein, are here to answer any questions you might have on Colony Collapse Disorder, bees, their movie, or anything else.
If you wants to ask them a question, leave a comment or tweet your question under the hashtag #beechat. Ask them anything!
We are so grateful to THE HUFFINGTON POST for this opportunity to answer some questions and help discuss the various issues affecting honeybees today. Please consider learning more about the plight of the bees and making concious, informed choices to help support them and save our food supply. Check out our trailer at http://vimeo.com/16570483 and please help spread the buzz!
Question from KIVPossum on the article:
Beekeepers knew this was a problem some 20 years ago. Why only now is it gaining the attention it deserves?
Answer: One of the main reasons it is getting attention now is because of one of the beekeepers in our film, David Hackenberg; when he experienced these losses in late 2006-early 2007, he spoke out to the science and press community, and wasn’t afraid to tell people that he was having a problem with his bees. A lot of beekeepers were experiencing problems but kept quiet about it because they thought people would just dismiss this problem as their just not being good beekeepers; other people who were alerted to it often reacted with that same attitude (i.e. someone just wasn’t doing their job) but in fact this problem is affecting beekeepers everywhere and it isn’t a reflection of their individual abilities. So the word started to spread in 2007, and it has really been getting out there, so we’re just starting to get the word out there. One of the most important things people can do is to help raise awareness; please see the film (THE VANISHING OF THE BEES) and share it with your friends. We focus on solutions; it’s a lot like global warming - it has been happening for many years, yet only really hit the news 10 years ago. When people become aware, then the solutions can come forward.
When pesticides and herbicides are tested and approved for use on our farms and gardens, are the long term effects of these agents on bee colonies included in of those studies?
Answer: No - and this is one of the central points of our documentary - they are NOT testing the long-term effects, and this is a severe flaw in the approval process. They only look at the impact on the health of a bee for 3 days or a week - and that is not an indication of whether these pesticides are safe to use for bees and other insects. They [systemic pesticides] are designed to have detrimental effects over a long period of time - not instantly kill insects outright, but cause sub-lethal effects that damage their systems and tell them to die off en-masse over a longer period of time.
Question From: @lakesunrise952
Is there a critical tipping point 4 the population? What can people be doing to help? Best site for more info?
Answer: Please visit us at www.vanishingbees.com to learn more. We’re losing about 30% of our honeybee population a YEAR for the past 4 years - on the surface, it looks like the problem is under control, but that’s because beekeepers are splitting up hives to make several out of one. This problem is dire - the systemic pesticides are the most commonly used now on the market, and they are increasing, so we are poisoning the earth (they stay in the soil up to 15 years), water (they are put into trenches), and more. What needs to happen for us to wake up? The bees are telling us to wake up today, and there are so many things we can do on so many different levels - we provide many different ideas in our film. Eat organically - keep bees - grow a garden - and so on. There are many things you can do to help!
Question from: @BrentMerrill
How do you separate the natural consequences of a mobile bee industry from CCD?
Answer: Honeybees that are stationary and that are treated organically are doing better. When I [Maryam] was in Puerto Rico, they have CCD, however it is not as prominent there for a variety of factors, including warmer climate and also they do not move their bees around as in other parts of America. So in conclusion, it’s an added stressor (of having the bees move around). Migratory beekeeping is part of the problem because honeybees have to go from beeyard to beeyard, mixing with different bees - much like humans having to live in an airport, you’re more likely to get sick! But we do need these bees to pollinate the food we eat - we know it’s a necessity.
Question from Mary Cook on Facebook:
"I saw a single bee the other day with a red dot on its back; I looked it up and found out that's a mite, part of CCD. What can be done about this?"
Answer: To clarify, mites are not a part of CCD - they are just part of the natural world where lots of different creatures have pests as part of their ecology. To see a single bee, you don’t know what hive it belongs to - hopefully the beekeeper is using oxalic acid and other natural methods, but it ‘s very important to clarify that mites are not a part of CCD, mites are a natural ‘enemy’ of the honeybee. Mites are, however a symptom of globalization - they came in from Asia, and bees in Asia are accustomed to dealing with mites, but honeybees in other parts of the world do not have natural defenses against these mites since they are not a natives species, so they can’t cope with them in the same way that bees in Asia could. The mites became widespread in the 1980’s. When colonists came to North America and spread different viruses, it’s the similar idea - non-native plants, non-natural species that are invasive and affect habitats all over the world, not just bees but people as well.
Quesiton from: @Leelawr
Can varroa mites or nosema be controlled by the bees' diet? Could the plants bees visit make them immune to disease?
Answer: This is 2 questions in one! Whether it’s bees or humans, nutrition and the resilience of the immune system is quite important. When honeybees are healthy and fed by a variety of pollen sources, their immune systems are strong and they’re more resistant to viruses, pests and mites like the varroa mite. If they’re visiting plants that are pesticide free, that is great - bees need a variety of pollen sources, they should not be eating almond pollen for 4 weeks at a time versus a wide variety of pollen sources (lavender, blueberries, etc) - so if bees that are used for migratory pollination don’t have a proper diet, and they are fed corn syrup by beekeepers, they aren’t going to be as healthy. Nutrition is a huge part of health, whether it is humans or bees.
“Are there areas in the world where bees *aren't* disappearing? Maybe there would be clues to the mystery there...”
Answer: Yes, there are some areas where they don’t practice monoculture farming and they don’t have this type of industrialized agriculture, so the bees in those areas aren’t suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder in quite the same way. There are a lot of different problems that bees face apart from CCD: mites are a big problem and those are everywhere. And in a lot of places where systemic pesicides are not common or organic bee areas, the honeybees are doing well & thriving, so this is indicative of the fact that at the root of this problem is the use of systemic pesticides. When the beekeeper in our film, David Mendes, takes some bees to a monoculture area, it is those colonies that are affected. The problem is that the EPA wants scientific proof rather than observational evidence, whereas in these countries in Europe, the government will still act upon these observations based on common sense.
“I'm interested in becoming a beekeeper and have 5 acres which I manage without pesticides. I'm wondering if we can make a difference if more small scale farms begin keeping bees in an effort to build up colonies. Also, are there particular items I can plant to help feed the bees so they don't travel off my property so much? I'll plant whatever it takes and already have an abundance of black raspberries invading the back of the property. Sorry if these seem like silly questions but I'm a real novice here and just starting to explore bee's needs.”
Answer: These aren’t silly questions at all! What you’re doing with your farm & garden is an amazing way to help ecology, the bees and our food supply. The goal is to plant a wide variety of species: so you want to plant different plants that will bloom at different times of the year (you could just have 3-4 species - something for Spring, Summer and Fall, so that there will always be a food supply for the bees). These plants may vary depending on where you live - any kind of fruit trees are really good, any flowering vines are great - it’s hard to answer without knowing exactly where you live - you should talk to your local gardening supply store to learn more. Something to keep in mind is that a lot of plants from major home improvement stores often have already been treated with systemic pesticides which can damage the bees, so be careful where you are getting your plants (same with pre-treated wood products). What you’re doing is a HUGE part of the solution and it sounds like your bees should do well on your property. There are a number of resources you can look at as a beekeeper - like the Organic Beekeepers group on Yahoo! among others - and think about having a topbar hive, which are very popular for environmentally-minded beekeepers.
Question from: @aerynsunx
How dire is the situation?
Answer: We think the situation is very serious but not beyond remedy. It’s a wake-up call. It’s something that has, in many ways, called attention to some very important issues that we need to be paying attention to. It’s a problem that we can do something to help with - we can help remedy this and help the bees, and help our food supply. If this is ignored, it will affect everyone. Bees are a sentinel species that are making us aware of the problems here; it’s not just bees that are affected by the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder.
“Have civilian backyard hive projects showed any promise?”
Answer: Yes - we believe that one of the best ways to help the bee population is to have individuals keep hives in their home & garden. The famous quote from our film - instead of one beekeeper having 60,000 hives you have 60,000 people with one hive - it just makes sense. It’s great for the community, it helps your local ecosystem, there are innumerable benefits; you can get your own honey, preserve genetic diversity and much more. A lot of the people who have seen our documentary, THE VANISHING OF THE BEES, have become beekeepers as a result of seeing the film. People are concerned, and it is a great hobby - something a lot of people are interested in - and people love bees. It’s a relaxing, mesmerizing hobby and it’s incredible to see how a colony works and how they build up in the spring, bring in pollen and nectar, the honey will vary in flavor & color depending on what plants are in bloom in your area - it’s pretty fascinating.
Question from: @soooooober
“isnt it obvious bees are congregating in one of the poles, planning a hostile takeover of earth to save it from human ignorance?”
Answer: Actually, bees have migrated to the 4th Dimension! (just kidding).
Question from @thunder_maker
“Does CCD affect all types of bees?”
Answer: Honeybees live in colonies with very intricate systems of communication; systemic pesticides affect all pollinators (hummingbirds, bats, butterflies, birds) but only honeybees live in colonies and have that intricate social structure which is disrupted by these chemicals. The same problems that are causing CCD (colony-collapse disorders) are affecting all pollinators and have detrimental health impact, but CCD is endemic to the system of bees living in colonies with a Queen and social system.
Question from @Profitina:
“Why not use wild bees that take up residence in people's houses & have to be removed?"
We shouldn’t be killing any bees! Ideally you would have a resident beekeeper who could rescue them. Or you could keep them and use them to pollinate your garden. In general - the idea behind this is a good one - and people actually do this. They will take bees that have made homes in unwelcome environments and put them on organic farms. If you want to do this near you, there should be a beekeeper nearby who can help you figure out a solution to this sort of problem. Saving the bees instead of killing them is very important - these bees are healthy and we need genetic diversity like these wild bees - so feral colonies are very important to the health of the species and need to be conserved.
Question from @815wrldtrvlr:
“are bees that bore onto wood the same as the as those that pollinate?”
Anser: All bees pollinate plants but honeybees are used in pollination for agriculture. So it sounds like you are referring to carpenter bees, and they still pollinate, but they aren’t what is used in our agricultural system. Honeybees can be transported, which makes them very valuable to move from crop-to-crop following the bloom. Even the ancient Egyptians transported honeybees down the Nile on rafts to take them from crop-to-crop while they were in bloom.