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Bees are the most economically valuable pollinators of different agricultural crops in the entire world (Great Britain: Department for Environment, 2011). Besides the production of honey, bees also play a significant role in crop pollination which is a vital element in agriculture, and food production (Stephen L. Buchmann, 1997). Honey bees play a crucial role in sustaining agriculture through pollination (America, 2007). According to researchers, bees accomplish approximately 80% of all insect pollination (Keith S. Delaplane, 2007). Therefore, world food supply depends on the well-being of bees. Recent researches have shown that the rates of honey bee losses are increasing drastically, meaning that little is done to counter the problem of honey bee losses in the entire world. Therefore, proper mechanisms must be established to address this problem before it gets out of control.
Despite the vital role bees play in agriculture and food production, massive declines have been reported in the population of bees across the globe. This massive loss of honey bee colonies may be attributed to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) (Jørgensen, 2009). In the past, some researchers claimed that the main reasons for the massive loss of bee colonies included parasitic mites and consequent viruses (P. J. Gullan, 2010). Recent studies suggest that the main reasons for the losses of bee colonies may be due to pesticides applied in agriculture, climate change, as well as the use of GM crops (Genetically Modified crops) (G. Tyler Miller, 2011).
According to the award winning article from International Bee Research dated Apr 20, 2011, honeybee happen to be the greatest pollinators in Europe and largely contribute to crop pollination as well as pollination of a different wildflower. According to the paper, many cases of reduction of bees got reported, but there was no precise information about how large losses of bee colonies were or how they were widespread in Europe Continent. As a result, researchers conducted various researches and compiled the data from more than 15 European countries in order to study changes in the number of honey colonies. From their research, they found out that there was a slight increase in the number of honey bee colonies in Mediterranean, but according to them, nearly a quarter of all honey bee colonies have vanished from 1980s. The researchers added that cases of honey bee losses have been severe in some countries, with the bee colonies losses being more than half in England in the same period. The research indicates that the trend of losses is projected to continue. This will affect crop pollination and food security of different countries.
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According to Daily Press, Virginia has lost two thirds of hive due to various diseases and application of pesticide. According to this news press, 1980s was the time when the decline in the honey bee colonies started. According to researcher these declines were mainly caused by Varrao and Tracheal mites. Although the use of pesticides contributed to the loss of bees colonies, researchers stated that mites wiped about 30% of the honey bees’ colonies in Virginia every winter.
According to researchers this problem has been worsened by colony collapse disorder, which has led to large losses of honey bee colonies in the North America. On the other hand, this paper indicates that some people put their blame on pesticides while other individuals blame electromagnetic waves from Satellites, cell phones and other devises. Also, some people blame industrialization as the main cause of loss bee colonies.
According to information in the Science Daily dated June 21, 2011, some scientists from University of Lund and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences carried out a research on the decline in the number of bees. According to the findings of their research, the numbers of bees have changed radically in Sweden for the last 70 years. Additionally, their research identified that the seed yield of some crops such as red clover had also declined. As a result of this, the scientists suggested that this decline in the yield of some crops may have been contributed by the decline of bees which happen to be the main pollinator of various crops.
In Irish agriculture, bees do most of the crop pollination, and farmers introduce them into crop as a way of increasing production. According to Science Daily publication, Irish growers import hundreds of bumblebee colonies from Europe in enhancing the quality and quantity of fruit. Additionally, crops like berries, pears and apples depend on pollinators such as bees for production of fruits. On the other hand, bees play a key role in improving the quality and quantity of seeds produced by crops such as sunflowers, peppers, oilseed rape and tomatoes. Additionally, this paper indicates that US has also facilitated the importation of honeybees in order to pollinate crops like almonds and alfalfa.
In 2006, commercial migratory beekeepers from the East Coast of the United States of America started to report substantial declines in their honey bee colonies. These unusual circumstances caused scientists to refer to this phenomenon as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Current reports from different researchers indicate that this phenomenon affected many beekeepers in most states. According to their findings, the overall number of managed honey bee colonies recorded a decline of an estimated 35.8% and 31.8% in the winter of 2007/2008 and 2006/2007 respectively.
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As a result of these declines, preliminary loss estimates in the winter of 2008/2009 reached 28.6%. To date, the reasons that led to the losses of colonies are not yet known (Diversity, 2001). This research paper attempts to provide an overview of the phenomenon of pollinator (e.g. bees, butterflies) decline, as well as various reasons that may be contributing to this decline according to different researchers who concentrate on the study of this phenomenon (Nickolas Merritt Waser, 2006). This study will also attempt to discuss the effects of declines in bee colonies on the agricultural production in the United States (New Scientist, 23 Jul 1987). Also, this study aims to describe the extent and symptoms of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and how it differs from the previous losses in bee colony. Additionally, this research paper seeks to describe some reasons that make researchers believe that honey bee colonies may be affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
The research paper will rely on the sources and data collected and compiled by both the AIA and USDA (the United States Department of Agriculture). The Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) is a non-profit organization established to promote conditions of beekeeping in North America. It consists of individual beekeepers, State Apiarist and business representatives. To justify the hypothesis, the data to be used will be from the one obtained by the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) following a comprehensive survey that studied changes from September 2006 and March 2007, as well as the data obtained by the USDA over the recent years. The same data will be used to show how Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and other causes have contributed to high rates of honey bee losses in various states. This research paper will use data from AIA and USDA surveys to provide information on how the causes of bee losses have increased the operation costs of beekeepers. These losses arise because of paying for antibiotics and Miticides, labor and expenses incurred for treatment, inspection, improved management as well as colony replacement of dead bees and financial losses that beekeepers experienced over different periods.
Heavy losses of bee colonies and die-off got reported on the East Coast of the US in 2006. At the end of the same year, beekeepers on the West Coast also reported extraordinary losses in honey bee colonies (Willmer, 2011). Scientists named this phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) (Vincent H. Resh, 2009). A report released by the National Research Council (NRC), claimed that the losses in the population of honey bee were due to pests, pathogens, parasites and diseases. The report also indicated that the most notable declines are those caused by the two parasitic mites referred to as the tracheal mite (Acarapis wood) and the vampire mite (Varroa destructor) (America, Status of Pollinators in North America, 2007). Additionally, the report indicated that the declines in honey bee populations might have been caused by pathogen Paenibacillus larvae.
Other reasons cited in the report by the National Research Council (NRC) included inter-specific competition between native and introduced bees, habitat loss, pathogen spillover effects, bee genetics, pesticides and invasion plants that reduce pollen and nectar-producing among others (Royal Entomological Society of London. Symposium, 2007). From the report, the first Varrao manifestation took place in 1987, but tracheal mites got detected for the first time in 1984 (Horn, 2006). According to reports, Varrao mites are believed to have removed a lot of untamed bee colonies in the mid 1990s. The report found that Varrao parasitism affects worker bees, as well as the male larvae (Schowalter, 2001). Varrao parasitism can also affect the queen’s ability to reproduce (Johnson, 2011). Varrao parasitism can be associated with pathogens, and failure to treat it can lead to colony mortalities for a period of 6 to 24 month after the first infestation.
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According to the USDA, losses of bee colonies reached 17%-20% on average per annum from the1990s. USDA reports that these losses may have been caused by various factors, which include mites, different diseases that affect bee colony, and stress resulting from management. Additionally, the report shows that losses of honey bee colonies between winters of 2006/2007 and 2007/2008, reached more than 25 % in that year.
A survey conducted by Bee Alert Technology, Inc. in 2007, indicated that more than 40% of beekeepers reported losses of up to 60% of their colonies. Another 48% of beekeepers reported average or lower losses. According to the report produced by Bee Alert Technology, Inc., smaller operations with less than 100 colonies are more likely to have experienced severe losses than normal. In this study, researchers requested respondents to indicate whether the general cause of losses in bee colonies came as a result of mite, overwinter losses, colony disappearance (or CCD) or pesticide exposure. It was evident from the research that losses caused by disappearance (43%) and overwintering (37%) contributed to the greatest share of the total losses of bee colonies. On the other hand, diseases and mites accounted for 15 % of losses, while pesticides indicated the small share (4%) of colony failures surveyed, regardless of their operation size.
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According to the study carried out by the AIA (the Apiary Inspectors of America) in more than 10 states, beekeepers experienced losses of more than 35% in their honey bee colonies during the winter of 2006-2007. This means that more than 651,000 of the country’s projected 2.4 million bee colonies got lost over the winter.
Although many losses were due to the known causes, more than 20% of beekeepers in various states suffered losses caused by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) (Chiras, 2009). The report further states that over 50% of surveyed beekeepers reported losses above normal while total losses of beekeepers who reported normal losses were slightly over 15% (Joe M. Graham, 1992). Additionally, the report indicates that one-fourth of the conditions reported were associated with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) (H. Randall Hepburn, 2011). The survey established that beekeeping operations facing CCD-like conditions reported losses of 45% of managed bee colonies. Pest diseases were among the leading causes reported.
According to the survey conducted by the USDA and AIA, the number of managed bee colonies decreased to an estimated 35.8% in the winter of 2007/2008 and 31.8% in the winter of 2006/2007. Preliminary loss estimates for the winter of 2008/2009 amounted to 28.6%. Data obtained from the survey indicated that 15% of the colonies lost during the winter of 2008/2009 died with symptoms of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), compared to 60% of the lost colony with CCD-like symptoms in 2007/2008 winter (Jones, 2005). Despite the fact that more recent estimates show a possible fall in losses of managed colonies, the USDA claims that this loss rate remains unsustainable. Additionally, a nationwide bee colony survey conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) found increasingly high rates of honey bee losses between October 2009 and April 2010 (www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2010/100429.2.htm).
The recent researches have shown that the rates of honey bee losses are increasing drastically, meaning that little has been done to counter the problem of continued increase in the rate of honey bee losses in the United States, as well as the entire world. This poses an enormous challenge in both agriculture and food supply across the globe (Australian journal of botany, 2007). Therefore, it is imperative for the federal and state governments and all key stakeholders to ensure that proper mechanisms be established to curb the problem before the situation gets out of control. If these losses increase, food production may be affected adversely, and the results of these losses will also affect many generations to come.
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In order to address this problem, governments should allocate more funds on research to identify the real causes of honey bee losses. The funded researches should be continuous so as to track any changes in honey bee colonies in all parts of the world. Additionally, scientists should endeavor to identify various diseases that result in bees losses, as well as identify possible treatment or possible solutions that can be applied to address this phenomenon. This is imperative because if these problems are not addressed as early as possible, food production may be affected and beekeepers will experience massive losses.
The research paper found that some cases of honey bee losses were attributed to the use of pesticides in agriculture. Some pesticides consist of toxic chemicals that affect honey bees and other pollinators. Therefore, it is imperative for governments to regulate the production of pesticides to ensure that all pesticides are environmental friendly and harmless to honey bees and other pollinators.
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Lastly, comprehensive education should be introduced to generate awareness on various causes that contribute to honey bee losses, as well as effects of these losses on agriculture and food supply in every nation. This education should educate people on methods of avoiding the use of substances that may adversely affect honey bees. Additionally, beekeepers should be trained on various methods that can be applied to curb this phenomenon.