This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
In Praise of Colony Losses
Dorian Pritchard, Dip Gen, PhD
Colony losses have been in the news recently but are they all bad?
WE ARE all saddened when we lose a colony, or
perhaps feel embarrassed and guilty that we failed to
keep it alive. But think again. If we approach this issue
as biologists, we can put a much more positive spin on
what is going on, as what we are really seeing is
natural forces operating to improve our stocks.
First let me make it clear that I am describing here the British
situation, not what may obtain at the present time in some
other countries. For example, by all accounts, some recent
major colony losses in Germany and France are very possibly
the consequence of pesticides inappropriately applied.
My understanding of Colony Collapse Disorder in the US is
that it could well be largely a consequence of overworking
stocks in monoculture situations, where the bees are s
wunable to obtain a balanced diet. If bees are confined to e
D n
fields of almonds, then blueberries, then aubergines, or hoJ
whatever, to the exclusion of every other plant species, they Although not common, Britain does still have its own
may cruise along for a couple of months on the trace native honey bees
elements, rare amino acids, lipids and vitamins, etc,
retained in their bodies, but not for ever. conditions. Species occupy privileged positions in the
Ultimately the resilience of the colony declines unless it is environment in which they arose, much less so elsewhere.
retired to multi-floral forage to stock up on minor dietary UNIQUE DNA
constituents. If when in a weakened state it encounters
viral, bacterial or fungal infections, especially when carried The reason is that native species alone contain the DNA of
by organisms such as varroa or nosema that penetrate the survivors of all the hazards that particular environment has
body wall, then the colony may succumb, when ordinarily it been able to throw at them in the past. A native species’
should fight off the infection. DNA is uniquely selected for its own homeland, through an
unbroken line of fighting ancestors that reaches way backTHE BRITISH PROBLEM
to the origins of life. If an animal is incapable of surviving
As I understand it, the British situation is very different, the to reproductive age and actually mating, its DNA gets
root of our problem, I believe, lying in the fact that the chucked in the trash can. And good riddance: evolution is
native bee is gone from most of Britain and been replaced only interested in survivors, as it is from these that the next
by bees from warmer, drier climates. Most bees in Britain generation must be created. Consequently the members of
are therefore genetically adapted to very different living any generation are on average just that little bit fitter than
those of the one that preceded it. So, as one generation
succeeds another, the average fitness of the species for
that specific environment steadily increases.
Britain does have its own honey bee natives but they are
now few and far between. When a land mass such as theBees from warmer, drier
climates are not genetically British Isles has been isolated for thousands of years, the
adapted to the British animals and plants that have continuously occupied it can
environment generally out-compete all incomers, as they are so much better
Page 14 Bee Craft digital January 2009
Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48
Produced with Yudu -