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Causes of Bee Population Decline

Joanna Tyson
A look at the reasons for the decline in the bee population and what can be done to arrest and possibly reverse the situation.
Why do we need bees?
Bees are absolutely essential to humans, without their help many crops would fail. They pollinate crops by transferring pollen grains between the anther (male germ cell) and the stigma ( the female reproductive system). It is a vital process as approximately one third of all plants eaten by humans are dependent on bee pollination.
Bees have hairy bodies which encourages pollen to cling to them as they travel between flowers. They need a large quantity of nectar and pollen to rear their young successfully so they visit a great many plants usually of the same species which in turn pollinates the whole crop.
Some flowering crops have only a brief period in which they can be pollinated; examples are vine crops such as squash, cucumber, melons and pumpkins. If they are not pollinated during the ‘window of opportunity’ then after the flower, there will be no seeds or fruits and the crop will fail. The bee plays an essential part in pollinating such crops.
Why is the bee population declining?
Over the last few years there has been more and more media attention regarding the ‘disappearance’ of our bees. Articles in all of the national newspapers are constantly appearing, the subject is on the news frequently and there are now whole television programmes made on the topic not to mention hundreds of thousands ‘hits’ available when entering the subject into a search engine on the Internet.
Some of the reasons given for the decline in the bee population are a reduction in grasslands and wild flowers due to over-grazing of cattle and sheep. Climate change is another factor as bees work well in temperatures that range from 16 degrees to 41 degrees. High winds and cooler temperatures will prevent bees from travelling far and genetically modified crops as a reason for bee decline has also appeared in the press.
This extract is taken from an article written by Brit Amos and published by Global Research in March 2008. The article was entitled ‘Death of Bees. Genetically Modified crops and the Decline of Bee Colonies in North America’.
‘The genetic modification of the plant leads tothe concurrent genetic modification of the flower pollen.When the flower pollen becomes genetically modified or sterile,the bees will potentiallygo malnourished and dieof illness due to the lack of nutrients and the interruption of the digestive capacity of what they feed on through the summer and over the winter hibernation process.’
Even the use of mobile phones has been given as a reason for bee population decline!
Below is an extract from The Telegraph dated 29 May 2010. The article was titled ‘Mobile phones responsible for disappearance of honey bee’, written by Dean Nelson.
‘Britain has seen a 15 per cent decline in its bee population in the last two years and shrinking numbers has led to a rise in thefts of hives.

Honey bee, (Apis mellifera mellifera), flying and collecting pollen from pussy willow, Germany, Bavaria
Now researchers from Chandigarh’s Punjab University claim they have found the cause which could be the first step in reversing the decline: They have established that radiation from mobile telephones is a key factor in the phenomenon and say that it probably interfering with the bee’s navigation senses.’
Bee population decline does of course have world-wide interest and the USA and European countries as well as the United Kingdom have had tremendous problems with ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ ( CCD) which means there is a sudden and complete absence of bees in the hive with no obvious explanation. There are no dead bees inside or outside the hive, the Queen is still present and there are food stores and capped broods ( young bees waiting to hatch).
As many agricultural crops world wide are pollinated by honey bees the increase in CCD has had a substantial effect on the economy:
‘According to the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the worth of global crops with honeybee’s pollination was estimated to be close to $200 billion in 2005 Shortages of bees in the US have increased the cost to farmers renting them for pollination services by up to 20%.’ (
Explanations for CCD are many and varied and include the over-use of pesticides, lack of proper food supply, disease and attacks from the Varroa and Acarapis mites.
The mites cause problems as they suppress the bees immune system making them more susceptible to viral infections.
The full name is the Varroa is very apt – the Varroa Destructor. The mite sucks bee blood from larvae, pupae and adult bees and also transmits debilitating and life-threatening viruses within the colony such as deformed wing virus and the acute paralysis virus.
The mite has become resistant to the pesticide that has always been used to control it Bayvarol Apistan and others do not seem as effective.
The Amercian Foul Brood ( AFB) is an infectious bacterial disease which can be spread easily by rogue bees not from the hive, wasps with intent to rob the hive of its honey or beekeepers who move infected hives during inspections. It is caused by Paenibacillus larvae and young infected bee larvae are particularly vulnerable, often dying in their cells after being sealed in.
The use of pesticides that contain neonicotinoids ( neonics) has been predominantly labelled in the press and web-based articles as being the chief factor in the disappearance of our bees.
Here is an extract from The Guardian, written by Damin Carrington and published 9 May 2014. The piece was entitled ‘Honeybees abandoning hives and dying due to
insecticide use, research finds’.

‘Scientists found bees from six of the 12 neonicotinoid-treated colonies had left their hives and died. Photograph: Rex Features
The mysterious vanishing of honeybees from hives can be directly linked to insectcide use, according to new research from Harvard University. The scientists showed that exposure to two neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used class of insecticide, lead to half the colonies studied dying, while none of the untreated colonies saw their bees disappear.
“We demonstrated that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering ‘colony collapse disorder’ in honeybee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter,” said Chensheng Lu, an expert on environmental exposure biology at Harvard School of Public Health and who led the work.’
What is in neonicotinoids and what effect is this having on bees?
Neonicotinoids are classified as systemic compounds which means they are soluble in water and are therefore easily absorbed by a plants’ root system. They are in pesticides such as clothiandin, imadcloprid and thiamethoxim.
Seeds of plants can be coated in the pesticide before planting and then the whole plant becomes contaminated including the sap, flower and tissues.
This may prove an effective form of pest control but as the nectar and pollen of the plant also become contaminated then it cannot help but have a detrimental effect on bees.
The molecular structure of neonicotinoid is similar to that of nicotine:


Anaerobic Infections: Causes and Treatment

Lean Hendrik Swanepoel
Contents (Jump to)

Anaerobic infections; these common infections are caused by the most common, natural occurring organism found in and on the human body – anaerobic bacteria.
In their natural state they are harmless, and only cause infection as a result of injury or body trauma. The infections commonly occur/affect the genitals, bone, heart, abdomen, joints, respiratory tract, mouth, skin and the central nervous system (CNS).
Anaerobic infections are often difficult to treat and are therefore a cause for concern. Common infections include:
Lemierre’s syndrome.
The most common symptoms that suggest the presence of an anaerobic infection include:
Discoloration of infected area.
Infection near the skin.
Pus-filled abscesses.
Smelly discharge.
Tissue damage.
Other symptoms are location specific depending on where the infection is in the body:
Cough and chest pain – caused by lung infections.
Redness, pain and swelling – caused by skin infections.
Tender gums, pain and bad breath – caused by mouth and throat infections.
Anaerobic infections are caused when deeper tissues of the body are either exposed to the outside environment or injured.
Injury; bites, trauma and/or surgery – root canals – are the more common ways to acquire the bacteria. Patients with weak immune systems, low blood supply and diabetes are at a higher risk of infection.
A break in the mucocutaneus barrier – skin or any epithelial exposed to the external environment – resulting in the disturbance of the local tissues and allows easy access to the anaerobic bacteria.
Infection is caused when endogenous bacteria are leaked from the site of entry to the adjacent tissues; spreading the infection.
Anaerobic bacteria are relatively difficult to diagnose, but time can be spared if the physician can recognize certain clinical signs.
Diagnosis of anaerobic infections generally follows two (2) steps; one (1) a physical examination performed by the doctor and two, laboratory tests done on the infected tissue to help identify the bacteria responsible.
During the physical exam the doctor looks for common anaerobic infection symptoms and asks about or observes predisposing conditions – low blood supply and tissue necrosis – that favor the growth of anaerobic bacteria. Therefore; malignancy, trauma, edema, foreign bodies, surgery, colitis, shock and vascular disease – which all lower the blood supply to parts of the body, can be seen as a predisposing conditions. An X-ray may be needed for internal infections.
With proper prevention anaerobic infections are easy to avoid; whether the infection occurs in the oral cavity, on the skin/soft tissues or has a chance of presenting itself during surgery.
During surgery; Proper antimicrobial prophylaxis reduces the risk/chance of infection.
Oral; Improve oral hygiene.
Lower the stomach pH – this can aid in the prevention of aspiration pneumonia.
Constantly rid the mouth of oral secretions.
Skin and soft tissue; Flush and clean out the open wound and necrotic tissue.
Constantly drain pus from the area.
Increase the blood supply to the area.
Antibiotics and other medications coupled with drainage of the infection site; is the most common treatment for anaerobic infections. In other cases surgery is required to remove the infection and/or abscess.
Due to the slow growth of the bacteria, treatment for the infection is delayed – because diagnosis of the bacteria can only occur after several days in the laboratory.
If not treated quickly or properly, infections caused by anaerobic bacteria are serious and can lead to death. However, most patients – who receive proper treatment – often make a full recovery.
EPIDEMIOLOGY: Most anaerobic infections are caused by normal, everyday anaerobic bacteria found in and around your body. These infections – a stated above; under the CAUSE heading – are caused when these bacteria either contaminate a sterile body site or enter the body from an external source; cuts, scraps, bites and contamination of wounds. A patient whose immune system is compromised has a higher risk of contamination/infection.
With all these factors at hand, anaerobic infections can lead to epidemics in a majority of places – from hospitals to schools – as the bacteria can be passed from one individual to the next through touch on an open wound.
Obligate anaerobes.
Gram positive.
Capable of producing endospores.
Commonly found in aquatic sediments.
Clostridium tetani
Obligate anaerobes.
Heat sensitive.
This anaerobe is found in soil and as parasites in the gastrointestinal tracts (GIT) of animals.
The endospores produced by these bacteria are antiseptic, chemical agent and heat resistant – can survive autoclaving at 121C for 10-15min.
The endospores are prevalent in manure treated soils and on human skin.
The symptoms depend on what type of tetanus the patient has;
Local: persistent muscle contraction in region of injury.
Generalized: lockjaw, elevated blood pressure, sweating, elevated temperature, rapid episodic heart rate, spasms continue for 3-4 weeks.
Neonatal: born without passive immunity.
Control of muscle spasms.
Antitoxins; stop the toxin production and neutralize its effects.
Rigorous hygienic response to injury.
Clostridium botulinum
Heat resistant
Found in soil, sediments of lakes, ponds, coastal waters, decaying vegetation, and the GIT of birds, mammals and fish.
Usually seen in canned foods
Botulism; when foods are ingested that has spores either growing or germinating in.
The symptoms start to present themselves 8-36 hours after ingestion.
Dryness of the mouth.
Antitoxin in circulation.
Proper food handling and preparation – 80°C for 10mins
Add salt or nitrites to products to reduce the growth of the bacteria.
Clostridium perfringens
Gram positive
Found in soils, sediments, human and animal GIT’s as well as their feces.
Optimal growth is between 42.78 C – 47.22 C (109-117°F).
Cellulitis and Gas Gangrene.
Stomach aches, diarrhea and vomiting.
Mistaken for the “24 hour” flu.
Penicillin and other antibiotics are used for gas gangrene.
Surgery is used for cases in which severe tissue damages occur.
Keep hydrated.
Handling foods properly, especially meats – maintain raw meats at very low temperatures <4.44 C (<40° F).
Use correct temperatures when cooking and cooling food – heating the food to 73.89 C (165° F) kills bacteria, but it must be cooled quickly and reheated to again 165° F.
Other clostridial diseases:
Clostridium difficile
Rod shaped.
Resistant to most antibiotics.
Found in soils, marine sediments and the GIT of humans and animals.
Pseudomembranous Colitis
Abdominal pain.
Tachycardia; rapid heart rate.
Toxic mega-colon; increased abdominal pain, abdominal bloating, abdominal tenderness.
Fecal Bacteriotherapy; infusion of bacterial flora (Probiotics), acquired from the feces of a healthy donor to combat the bacterial imbalance as a result of the infection.
Two specific antibiotics can be used as treatment; Metronidazole and Vancomycin.
Stay healthy; taking a daily multivitamin as well as eating a diet that is balanced and nutritious. Exercising daily and washing your hands regularly are also advised.