Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a significant disappearance of honey bee colonies that may be affecting bees in more than 22 states, threatens the production of crops dependent on bees for pollination as well as honey production. Pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. Of the 2.4 million colonies of bees in the United States, the almond crop in California alone requires 1.3 million colonies, and this need is projected to increase significantly over the next few years. The bee industry is facing difficulty meeting the demand for pollination in almonds because of bee production shortages in California. Consequently, growers depend increasingly on beekeepers from other states to transport honey bee colonies across the country to meet the pollination demand (a phenomenon known as migratory beekeeping). If researchers cannot find a solution to CCD, beekeepers will be unable to meet demand for this and other crops. Current theories about the cause(s) of CCD include increased losses due to the invasive varroa mite; new or emerging diseases, especially mortality by a new Nosema species (related to the microporidian giardia); and pesticide poisoning (through exposure to pesticides applied for crop pest control or for in-hive insect or mite control). In addition to these suspects, perhaps the most highly-suspected cause of CCD is a potential immune-suppressing stress on bees, caused by one or a combination of several factors. Stresses may include poor nutrition (due to apiary overcrowding, pollination of crops with low nutritional value, or pollen or nectar dearth), drought, and migratory stress brought about by the increased need to move bees long distances to provide pollination services (which, by confining bees during transport, or increasing contact among colonies in different hives, increases the transmission of pathogens). Researchers suspect that stress could be compromising the immune system of bees, making colonies more susceptible to disease. Following the ad hoc formation of a CCD Working Team (a rapid response group comprised of academic, private, and Federal scientists), the Department of Agriculture (USDA) took the lead in the effort to determine causes contributing to CCD. Specifically, USDA organized a two-day CCD Workshop in Beltsville, Maryland, for various apiculture experts to identify research gaps and priorities as well as measures required to address these needs. Based on information gathered at the Workshop, a newly formed CCD Steering Committee, composed of Federal program leaders and Land Grant University scientists/administrators, identified critical research and response needs and developed an Action Plan. Direction of research to bee decline and protecting bee health has been accompanied by considerable direction of Federal resources. In fiscal year (FY) 2007, ARS had a honey bee research budget of $7.7 million, the focus of research being on controlling the varroa mite pest and microbial pathogens and on improving honey bee nutrition. Between FY 2000 and FY 2006, the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) spent an average of $1.7 million per year on honey bee and pollinator research; roughly one third to one half of this funding was spent on research on honey bee health. Additional funds are now being directed by ARS' Areawide Integrated Pest Management program to conduct a full-scale areawide project on honey bee health in the amount of $1 million per year for the next 5 years. Meanwhile, CSREES has tapped $117,000 in unexpended funds from the Critical and Emerging Issues Program to provide seed grants for CCD. In addition, CSREES is tentatively planning to direct additional funds in FY 2008. Land Grant University Experiment Stations have committed to the support of a new Multi-state Rapid Response Research project administered by the North Central region through the Hatch Multi-state Research allocation. This project will begin in FY 2008 and will include scie tists throughout the United States. Furthermore, extension specialists are active in every State and many have specific responsibilities to apiculture. Many of their activities are supported by Federal Smith-Lever appropriations to States for the Cooperative Extension System. The current strategy for addressing the CCD crisis involves four main components: 1) survey and data collection; 2) analysis of samples; 3) hypothesis-driven research; and, 4) mitigation and preventative action. Within each component topic area in this Plan, we have outlined the current status of ongoing research and future plans needed to address the problem of poor honey bee health, as well as the organizations(s) that will be involved in the effort. Furthermore, this plan identifies many areas of research where specific expertise is lacking, and it recommends longterm capacity building in these areas, accomplished through the hiring of new scientists. Finally, as noted in a 2006 National Academy of Sciences study on the status of bee populations in North America, honey bee health has been in decline for several years-long before the appearance of CCD-and a concerted, well-funded research and extension effort is urgently needed to ensure the viability of these essential pollinators in U. S. agriculture. © 2009 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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