Honey bee disease still a mystery

By Diane Palmer

Honey bees are disappearing and researchers are scrambling to find a cause and a cure.

Clemson University Entomologist Mike Hood calls it "a fast-moving mystery," but a small problem so far in South Carolina.

Twenty-two states have been affected by colony collapse disorder. Some commercial beekeeping operations have lost up to 80 percent of their colonies. The disease targets adult worker bees which die outside the colony, leaving only a few adults inside. Worker bees are killed in a matter of weeks.

“Honey bees are our most beneficial insect and are responsible for pollinating approximately one third of our food in the United States,” said Hood. “Some South Carolina fruits and vegetables that require honey bee pollination include apples, watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, cucumber, and many others. They are also important pollinators for many wildlife food plants.”

South Carolina has about 2,000 beekeepers, with the bulk of them hobbyists whose bees make honey as well as pollinate crops in gardens, farms and orchards.

For information: Mike Hood, 864-656-0346, mhood@clemson.edu