Development of Colony Collapse Disorder in Honeybees in Schleswig-Holstein and its Relation to the Beekeeping Methods

Honeybees have important functions in terrestrial ecosystems and for biodiversity through their pollination services. We also benefit from bee products such as honey and beeswax, which are used in a variety of industries, including bakery, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, water-proof polishes and candle making. Consequently, the increased number of honeybee losses, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), will cause severe damage to ecosystems and our economy. Therefore, it has concerned many scientists and ecologists in recent years and affected many farmers and beekeepers. Although researchers have tried to determine the main causes of CCD in honeybees throughout the globe in the past decade, we still do not have sufficient knowledge of the actual factors that cause and increase death rates in honeybee colonies. On the other hand, most of the research being done in Germany on this issue is mainly focussed in the southern parts of the country. However, the weather conditions in the northern German coastal areas with often strong winds and relatively few sunny days for the honeybees to collect pollen or nectar differ significantly from those in southern Germany. Several research articles suggest the use of pesticides as one of the potential causes of bee mortality. Others also focus on pathogens and varroa destructor. However, due to the rise in the number of CCDs occurring worldwide, it seems less realistic to consider only one factor as the main cause. Therefore, an overview of all potential causes of death in honeybee colonies is provided and a combination of (synergistic) factors is identified as a means to weaken the bees' immune system. Hence, this dissertation focuses on the development of CCD in honeybees in Schleswig-Holstein, its main causes and its possible relation to beekeeping methods. The main questions asked in this dissertation are therefore: • Why are honeybees disappearing more often today than in the past? • How severe is the loss of the bee population in Northern Germany? • Is the crisis of bee mortality related to beekeeping methods? • Is there a way to decrease the losses? 9 For this matter, the following research project is based on firstly, a comparative study of the development of all the potential causes of CCD in bees in Schleswig-Holstein, including the background history of beekeeping in the region. Secondly, an evaluation and analysis of qualitative questionnaires will help to discuss the progress and the estimated causes of CCD in this area. For this research project, up-to-date data from local beekeepers are needed to analyze the recent development of colony collapse disorder in honeybees in the region. Furthermore, common local beekeeping methods and management trends could be easily patterned using a questionnaire. Finally, specific problems, requests, wishes and needs of beekeepers could be identified. Therefore, with the help of a several new and old local beekeepers from the region, a questionnaire with 21 questions was designed to add their field of interest. This survey is divided into two parts: in the first part, general questions about beekeepers, such as number of beehives and their equipment, and the second part, technical questions about deeper beekeeping methods, bee losses, issues and requests that include different perspectives on the topic. However, they are primarily focused on the main research hypothesis, beekeeping methods and bee losses. Finally, some methods and factors will be suggested to reduce or cut the losses of honeybees and to improve the general situation of honeybees in natural and man-made ecosystems. Despite the growing loss of honeybee colonies in recent decades, there is hope to put an end to this issue by understanding the main causes of this phenomenon at the local scale and eliminating these factors by improving the beekeeping and management methods and maintaining biological pest-control targets.


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