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The Buzz about Colony Collapse Disorder

Causes, Effects, and Cures


Robyn R. Oster
National Student Exchange Program
University of Maine at Presque Isle
Bonnie S. Wood
Department of Math and Science
University of Maine at Presque Isle


Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the widespread loss of honeybees, has devastating repercussions for the environment, industry, and the economy. This case study explores the possible causes, effects, and treatments for CCD by focusing on a family of honeybee workers who travel across the U.S. throughout the year helping to pollinate crops in California, Florida, Maine, and Pennsylvania with their honeybee colonies. Written in an interrupted format to be presented in two 50-minute class periods, the case contains an optional section on the process of RNA silencing (and how that is applicable to insects such as honeybees) that can be used depending on the level of the students. The last section reviews encourages students to consider changes in agricultural practices that would result in a healthier environment for pollinators. Originally designed for a college-level course in invertebrate biology, the case could easily be adapted for use in an ecology or environmental science course.


  • Define Colony Collapse Disorder and list its effects.
  • Assess the global and national repercussions of a sudden, massive loss of important pollinators.
  • Research the mechanisms whereby pathogens and pesticides affect honeybees.
  • Consider the effects on bees of heavy use of pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides.
  • Research the process of RNA interference and write a one- to two-page paper on how this effectively silences specific viruses in honeybees.
  • Identify changes that can be made by farmers, beekeepers, and the general population to increase pollination of crops and promote healthier honeybee populations.


Colony collapse disorder; bees; honeybees; pollinators; pollination; hemolymph; varroa mites; nosema; bacillus thuringiensis; neonicotinoids; Israeli acute paralysis virus; RNA interference; double stranded RNA

Topical Areas

Regulatory issues, Science and the media, Social issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Discussion, Interrupted, Student Presentations



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Agriculture  |   Ecology  |   Environmental Science  |   Molecular Biology  |  

Date Posted


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