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Hum Ecol Risk Assess. 2014 Feb;20(2):566-591. Epub 2013 Nov 25.

A Causal Analysis of Observed Declines in Managed Honey Bees (Apis mellifera).

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Exponent, Alexandria, VA, USA.
Exponent, Bellevue, WA, USA.


The European honey bee (Apis mellifera) is a highly valuable, semi-free-ranging managed agricultural species. While the number of managed hives has been increasing, declines in overwinter survival, and the onset of colony collapse disorder in 2006, precipitated a large amount of research on bees' health in an effort to isolate the causative factors. A workshop was convened during which bee experts were introduced to a formal causal analysis approach to compare 39 candidate causes against specified criteria to evaluate their relationship to the reduced overwinter survivability observed since 2006 of commercial bees used in the California almond industry. Candidate causes were categorized as probable, possible, or unlikely; several candidate causes were categorized as indeterminate due to lack of information. Due to time limitations, a full causal analysis was not completed at the workshop. In this article, examples are provided to illustrate the process and provide preliminary findings, using three candidate causes. Varroa mites plus viruses were judged to be a "probable cause" of the reduced survival, while nutrient deficiency was judged to be a "possible cause." Neonicotinoid pesticides were judged to be "unlikely" as the sole cause of this reduced survival, although they could possibly be a contributing factor.


Varroa; causal analysis; honey bees; neonicotinoids

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