Oklahoma Beekeepers Fearful of Colony Collapse Disorder

Thursday, July 2nd 2009, 2:44 pm
By: News On 6

Chris Howell, NewsOn6.com

TULSA, OK -- In 2006 a syndrome named Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, began devastating bee hives across the world.  Although CCD is not, as yet, affecting Oklahoma bee colonies in large numbers, Green Country beekeepers are fearful the syndrome may spread to their apiaries.

Although the reasons for Colony Collapse Disorder aren't fully understood, beekeepers like Dr. Kay Backues, the staff veterinarian at The Tulsa Zoo, are beginning to suspect the overuse of pesticides.

"Contaminants, pesticides, residues are building up in the wax in the animals hive where it lives, and making the normal viruses that this animal would have anyway suddenly become something that the animal can't deal with," said Dr. Backues.

Larger colonies used to support the agriculture industry are the most affected, leading many to suspect genetically modified crops with pest controlled characteristics.

Whatever the reason causing the increased susceptibility to the virus, the effect is devastating to the hives. 

"It's confusing their navigation system," said Dr. Backues, "the foragers are leaving to go out and bring food resources back to the hive, the living unit, and they're not able to come home. And if that happened the hive would decimate its numbers from thousands of bees to just a handful in just a few days."

Although relatively few people are interested in keeping bees, everyone can help keep the environment healthy for these industrious little animals.

"If you garden for wildlife use very little chemicals and let nature take its course," advises Dr. Backues, "your vegetable gardens and your flower gardens will do fine. Spraying insecticides on them just because you see a bug is not the way to go, you're affecting the environment. We're all connected with this."

Visit the Northeast Oklahoma Beekeepers Association Web site here.