Randy Rucker, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics in the MSU College of Agriculture, began looking into colony collapse disorder several years ago with colleagues from North Carolina State University and Oregon State University, for the purpose of estimating its economic impacts. The onset of the disorder was an unexpected shock to commercial beekeeping and pollination markets that first received national attention in the winter of 2006-07 when mortality rates were estimated to be almost 30%.
Colony collapse disorder is still a poorly understood phenomenon, wrote Rucker and his co-authors in the paper's introduction. Since its onset, along with other pollinator health issues such as the Varrona mite, which feeds on developing bees, it has caused significant concern among beekeepers and the public.
Colony - Collapse - Disorder - Beekeeper - Worker
"With colony collapse disorder, a beekeeper goes out and virtually all the worker bees are gone," said Rucker. "Twenty thousand, 30,000, 40,000 worker bees, just gone. There are very few dead worker bees on the ground near the colony, and the queen, the brood and all the food are still there. But the bees are just gone."
With so little known about what causes colony collapse disorder, Rucker and his team set out to identify its economic ripple effects by examining trends in four categories: number of commercial honeybee colonies nationwide, honey production, prices of queens and packaged bees and pollination fees charged by commercial beekeepers to growers. The team found some surprising results.
Bee - Population - Winter - Rucker - Prior
Bee population is known to fall during the winter, said Rucker. Prior to the onset of colony collapse disorder, the average winter mortality rate was about 15%. Beekeepers have long known how to replace dead hives and are prepared to deal with losses, typically in one of two ways.
The first method of offsetting winter losses is called splitting, where a beekeeper takes half...
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