The next lecture I attended was by Norman Carreck entitled COLOSS B-RAP, an acronym for prevention of COlony LOSSes: Bridging bee Research And beekeeping Practice. COLOSS was sparked off by the notorious CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) of which people couldn’t agree on the symptoms, let alone the causes, so there are no reliable statistics about it. There are currently 742 members in 90 countries worldwide. They have been monitoring colony losses and find that insect populations fluctuate from year to year. Attempts are being made to standardise techniques so that sensible comparisons can be made.
They have found, by controlled experiments, that local bees survive better than bees moved into the area, but aren’t sure why. It is speculated that there may be local strains of bee-diseases to which the local bees have developed a measure of immunity but this has yet to be proved. In the USA, annual colony losses are in the region of 30% and CCD is low on the list of causes, many of which are preventable.
Norman went on to tell of a CSci (Citizen Science) pollen project to see whether lack of pollen diversity caused by intensive agriculture might make life difficult for the bees. Pollen collectors are asked to take a sample about once in 10 days from 3 colonies in the same apiary. They then take 20 grammes of pollen (enough to fill the lid of a 12 ounce honey jar) and sort the pollen loads out into the different colours, reporting the results to Norman by email.
Norman is still looking for volunteers to whom he will supply pollen traps. I’d like to do it but I don’t usually have 3 colonies in an apiary as (apart from the beekeeper) the worst enemy of a hive of bees is another one.
I did point out to him that the gender of the volunteers should be taken into account as it might skew the results because people of the female persuasion see about 4 times as many colours as men!