The Disappearance of the Honeybee: Can we Solve Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?

Admire 2F (Imidacloprid) is highly toxic to honey bees and therefore can only be used after the removal of the apiary from the cranberry bog.

Adult worker bees leave the hive and never return. Since honeybees cannot live without the colony they inevitably die. The hive has plenty of honey stored, the queen is in good health, and there appears to be no invasion from robbing bees, beetles or moths. Yet the colony is nearly empty. Mysterious bee die-offs are not new, the first reported case of a similar disorder occurred in 1869 and was thought to be related to poisonous honey, lack of pollen or a hot summer. Since then there have been dozens of CCD-like outbreaks where worker bees have disappeared from the hive and theories abound from; fungus (Aspergillus flavus), mites (Acarapis woodi, Varroa destructor), neonicotinoid pesticides (Imidacloprid, Clothainidin) to sources of pollen (Eucalyptus leucoxylon). Honeybees are delicate organisms with half as many genes present to detoxify foreign substances compared with other insects . They are also sensitive to moisture, temperature, diet and relocation. Studies have indicated that CCD hives are under stress and there is either a contagious condition or exposure to a common risk factor. Immunodefense genes that are activated in bees can give clues to exposure and current studies are underway to determine what factors are triggering these responses.

One theory is the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides such as Imidacloprid is contributing to CCD. One mechanism for mortality in termites exposed to Imidacloprid, for example, is the termites leave the nest and cannot remember how to get home. Although studies have shown the acute toxicity for Imidacloprid is 20ppb (3), chronic toxicity is difficult to determine given the limitations on techniques for detection in the single-digit ppb or sub-ppb concentration range in matrix. Another facet of this investigation is the metabolites of this compound are believed to be orders of magnitude higher in chronic toxicity compared to the parent compound.

Alaa Kamel with the US EPA Office of Pesticide Programs examined Imidacloprid and its known metabolites and examined different procedures for the extraction, cleanup and analysis of the bee, bee pollen, and honey. The most effective extraction and cleanup required a 1gm C18 SPE cartridge with the addition of sodium acetate and magnesium sulfate to the sample prior to extraction. Analysis was performed using positive ESI-LC/MS/MS. One of the LC columns used was a Restek Aromax for its superior retention characteristics. Metabolites were better retained on this phase, although some peak tailing was observed. A faster gradient will help to overcome this problem. Imidacloprid was detected at 0.2ppb and metabolites ranged from 3.6ppb for the olefin moiety to 0.2ppb for desnitro olefin imidacloprid.

The behavior, social and genetic characteristics of these insects make it exceedingly difficult to determine the cause of these latest bee die-offs. Many of the CCD-like events in the past 150 years were never solved. With recent advances in genetic testing, viral identification, and chemical detection, CCD is a problem that will expand the frontiers of science and will eventually be solved.

Admire 2F (Imidacloprid): Can be used to control rootworms, white grubs and a variety of other insects on Cranberries. Aerial application is prohibited.

** Both photographs were taken on Cranberry Road in Eastern Massachusetts on July 3rd, 2010.  Cranberry bogs line the roads. The sign was located on one side of the road and the apiary was on the opposite side.

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