Bees & Honey

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

Colony Collapse Disorder is the name given to the latest and very serious die-off of honey bee colonies across the country.

The Wisconsin Apiary program asks that you do four things this year:

  1. Have your hive(s) inspected.
  2. Know the symptoms of CCD.
  3. Follow the recommendations of the CCD working group.
  4. Stay informed.

Hive Inspection

The Wisconsin Apiary program offers hive inspections beginning in May through July and again in the fall. The inspections are offered at no-charge to you. The benefits of inspection are to help identify diseases that may be present in your hives. During a typical inspection, the bee inspector will look inside the hives, find the queen, look for varroa mites, foulbrood disease, viruses, and any other pests or diseases. The inspectors will also review your hive treatments and discuss your overwintering success.

To schedule an inspection for the upcoming season, contact Elizabeth Meils, State Apiarist, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, PO Box 8911, Madison WI 53708-8911, (608) 224-4572, elizabeth.meils@datcp.state.wi.us.

Know the Symptoms

Some early signs of CCD in cases where the colony appears to be actively collapsing:

  • There is an insufficient workforce to maintain the brood that is present.
  • The workforce seems to be made up of young adult bees.
  • The queen is present, appears healthy and is usually still laying eggs.
  • The cluster is reluctant to consume food provided by the beekeeper, such as sugar syrup and protein supplements.
  • Foraging populations are greatly reduced or non-existent.

Colonies that have been affected by CCD have the following characteristics:

  • The complete absence of adult bees in colonies, (in some cases the queen and a small number of survivor bees are present in the brood nest) with no or little build-up of dead bees in the colonies or at the hive entrances.
  • The presence of capped brood.
  • The presence of food stores, both honey and bee bread, which is not immediately robbed by other bees. Invasion of common hive pests such as wax moth and small hive beetle is noticeably delayed.

Follow Recommendations


The CCD Working Group has developed a tentative list of recommendations for those experiencing CCD. Be aware that these recommendations may change as the researchers learn more about this issue. Here is a brief list of recommendations from the working group, as of March 1, 2007:

CCD Working Group Recommendations – 1 page PDF

1. Do not combine collapsing colonies with strong colonies.

Why?

We do not currently know the cause of CCD. If an infectious agent causes it and you combine a collapsing colony with a healthy colony, the healthy bees may succumb to the illness and you may lose both colonies.

2. When you find a collapsed colony, store equipment so bees won't have access to it. Store the equipment where you can use preventative measures to ensure that bees will not have access to it. Put the equipment in this storage area within TWO WEEKS of collapse to prevent robbing by neighboring colonies. CCD colonies tend not to be robbed out by colonies immediately after collapse. When you take this equipment out for reuse, wear a protective face mask to prevent the inhalation of any mold spores that may grow on the comb.

Why?

The CCD team is currently investigating various sterilization techniques that allow for comb reuse. We are hopeful that we will soon have a sterilization technique in place to treat equipment before it is reused. We DO NOT recommend burning infected equipment at this time. Keep it in storage (with necessary wax moth and SHB precautions) for the time being.

3. If you feed your bees sugar syrup, use Fumagillan.

Why?

At this time the CCD working group does not believe that nosema disease is the underlying cause of CCD. However, infection with nosema is a stressor that can reduce the bees’ tolerance to other disease agents. Treating for nosema helps reduce colony stress.

4. If you are experiencing colony collapse and see a secondary infection, such as European Foulbrood, treat the colonies with Terramycin, NOT TYLAN.

Why?

The effectiveness of Terramycin has been well documented, while Tylan has not been tested as an EFB control agent. We know that Terramycin works for the treatment of EFB.

5. If you observe high levels of varroa mites, treat them using soft chemicals, such as Apiguard, Apilife VAR, or MiteAway II. We DO NOT recommend the use of oxalic acid, or home made hard chemical mixtures.

Why?

Colonies experiencing CCD have been shown to have kidney (Malpighian tubule) problems similar to those seen in colonies treated with hard chemicals. There are some reports that Oxalic acid may damage bee Malpighian tubules. Also the harder chemicals (fluvalinate, coumaphos, and amitraz) may have a sub lethal affect on bees which may add additional stress on the bees. By treating for varroa mites with soft chemicals, you are helping to keep the colonies mite population low while avoiding the potentially negative effects of hard chemicals.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date on research and activities of the CCD Working Group.

Wisconsin Pest Bulletin
Weekly bulletin offered through out growing season; covers agriculture crops, pests, forestry, fruits, vegetables, insects and bees.

Bee Culture
Magazine of American Beekeeping

For more information on the Wisconsin Apiary Program or Colony Collapse Disorder, call 608-224-4572 or send an email.