Stress Alone Can Lead to Bee Colony Collapse
Imagine a hive, silent except for the queen, her only companions larvae maturing in capped honeycombs. Almost all the 50,000 to 80,000 worker bees that once served her have left en masse to die.
The hive is afflicted by Colony Collapse Disorder, or C.C.D., a phenomenon affecting bees globally that seems to have no single, obvious cause. Scientists have so far implicated pesticides (neonicotinoids, which farmers spray on corn, soy and other crops), habitat loss, parasites, and even diesel fumes.
The factors have little in common, except that they all stress the bees. A single factor in a low dose is not enough to kill them, but the stress alone is enough to make the bees exhibit erratic behavior — such as orientation, mobility, defense and other skills — as though the they are slightly boozed.
The stress experienced by individual bees over a prolonged period of time begins to affect the entire colony. And at a critical level of stress, a tipping point, the colony heads toward failure, suggests a study published today in Ecology Letters.
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