muddled thinking

The dissemination of misinformation

Okay, I know, this is another rant–my second in a week. But this stuff soooo irritates me that I can’t leave it alone.

Yesterday I came across this headline on one of the bee sites: “Could the combination of miticides and varroacides be causing CCD?”

Now what bothers me here is that a varroacide is a miticide. So this is like saying, “a combination of fruit and apples.” Or did they mean a combination of varroacides (in particular) and other miticides (in general?) Or are they totally confused? I suspected the latter.

So I checked out the article they linked to and guess what? The article was about a combination of fungicides and varroacides. So why didn’t they say so? Fungicides are an altogether different type of chemical. It makes me wonder if they even read the article before they reported on it.

In my opinion, writers shouldn’t use words if they don’t know what they mean. And writers who purport to disseminate scientific information have a duty to their readers to get it right—or at least try to get it right.

As far as I know, no one has a corner on the word market. Any writer can look up the words and see what they mean before using them in a sentence. Thing is, this stuff is hard enough to understand without muddled writers mucking it up.



  • I am in my second year of beekeeping and still have a long way to go on my learning curve; so forgive me if this sounds dumb. In what year was CCD determined to start? I understand that on average about 30% of colonies are lost a year, the last few years, so how many were lost before CCD? Last question for now, the 30%, is that just CCD or does that include starvation and other things I know nothing about?



    • Tim,

      This is anything but a dumb question and I don’t know how well I can answer. CCD was first named in 2006, but an increase in colony losses began shortly after WWII, which coincided with the era that commercial pesticides began to be widely used. The companies that made wartime chemicals brought their technology ashore in the form of a war on bugs. Colony losses took another big leap in the 1980s with the introduction of Varroa mites and the viruses they carry.

      Some commercial establishments have lost huge percentages, sometimes 75-95% of their hives due to colony collapse, or so we are told. But I don’t believe the overall loss of colonies–when you consider commercial, sideliner, and hobbyists–is much above the 30 percent that you always hear about. I’ve heard numbers closer to 20% before CCD but don’t quote me on that. The USDA keeps statistics on the number of surviving colonies, and you can look them up online going back quite a while.

      One of the things that has happened for sure is that the number of wild (feral) hives living in the woods and rural lands has all but disappeared. You can still find “wild” colonies, but more often than not those bees escaped from managed hives within the last year or two. The inability of feral colonies to survive longer than that is due to Varroa mites and the associated viruses, not CCD. Of course every time someone says there’s few feral hives left, someone will relate a story about the bees that have lived in their grandfather’s oak tree for 40 years. My answer to them is that yes, there will always be statistical outliers, but for the most part wild colonies are gone.

      Another problem with assessing the damage wrought by CCD is that it is largely self-reported. So if a beekeeper loses his hives due to starvation, neglect, foul brood or whatever, it may get reported as CCD. The 30% includes all losses. As you get into beekeeping you will find a whole discouraging world of parasites, pathogens, predators, and pesticides that affect bees. It’s nearly impossible to sort out what happened most of the time. Indeed, synergistic effects between things like pathogens and pesticides make the whole question of “what happened” quite complex.

  • Rusty, thank you for the history lesson it; is much appreciated. I am learning more and more that beekeeping is more of an art than an exact science.


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