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Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

Thursday, 26-Jan-2017


Eight days after my last hive inspection I woke up to something very strange going on at the beehive. From my window, I saw something hanging off the lid. It was wet and rainy and I thought it was a wet leaf. I went out to investigate and what was hanging off the lid was a cluster of bees. My first thought was the hive swarmed. I opened the hive and there were no bees at all. The top super still had all the food storage, lots of honey. The bottom deep super was pretty much depleted.


I proceeded to clean out the hive and collected the honey frames to harvest. We got a bitter sweet harvest of over 30lbs of amazing honey (33lbs total in the year). The remaining cluster was still hanging on to the lid so I tapped it on the top of the deep super frames and there was my marked queen. What??? Now I am totally confused. What happen to the bees if they did not swarm? There were only three dead bees in the hive and no dead bees anywhere around the hive. It was like they vanished.

After doing some research I came across: Colony collapse disorder. My situation is a text book definition to this theory.



Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, and were known by various names (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease), the syndrome was renamed colony collapse disorder in late 2006 in conjunction with a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of western honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in North America. European beekeepers observed similar phenomena in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, Switzerland and Germany, albeit to a lesser degree, and the Northern Ireland Assembly received reports of a decline greater than 50%.


Signs and Symptoms

In collapsed colonies, CCD is suspected when a complete absence of adult bees is found in colonies, with little or no buildup of dead bees in the hive or in front of the hive. A colony which has collapsed from CCD is generally characterized by all of these conditions occurring simultaneously:


Presence of capped brood in abandoned colonies: Bees normally will not abandon a hive until the capped brood have all hatched.

Presence of food stores, both honey and bee pollen:

  • which are not immediately robbed by other bees
  • which when attacked by hive pests such as wax moth and small hive beetle, the attack is noticeably delayed

Presence of the queen bee: If the queen is not present, the hive died because it was queenless, which is not considered CCD.

Precursor symptoms that may arise before the final colony collapse are:

  • Insufficient workforce to maintain the brood that is present
  • Workforce seems to be made up of young adult bees
  • The colony members are reluctant to consume provided feed, such as sugar syrup and protein supplement.


There has been a decline in CCD in European countries and this being attributed to banning of pesticides.

I spoke with a bee keeper who does not believe in CCD. He believes the loss is due to mites. However, in his series of questioning he seemed surprised at my answers:

  1. Were there dead bees around the hive? No
  2. Were there a lot of dead bees in the hive? No
  3. Were there any drone cells? No – he said to use a toothpick and stick it inside the drone cell. If there are lots of mites, you will see them on the toothpick. Since there was not any drone cells I could not perform this test.


He was baffled and had no other reasoning while he still stuck to his theory.


The whole experience was very disappointing to say the least. As a backyard beekeeper, you can never really know what your neighbors are using for pesticides on their lawn and garden as well what they are using to keep insects from coming in their home.

It’s not ending here for us, we have a package of bees on order for March 21st. I will post a video of the installation.

Till then – bee well and bee friendly.

- Joe, the backyard beekeeper.