Colony Collapse - Losing their buzz

Published: March 2, 2007
WHEN Hollywood filmmakers want to heighten the tension of an insect fear film, they just arrange for millions of killer bees to appear out of nowhere to threaten a vulnerable group of people — over the years, these have included children in a school bus, celebrants at a Mardi Gras parade and people living near a nuclear power plant.

But people from all demographic groups across the country are facing a much more frightening real-life situation: the disappearance of millions of bees. This winter, in more than 20 states, beekeepers have noticed that their honeybees have mysteriously vanished, leaving behind no clues as to their whereabouts. There are no tell-tale dead bodies either inside colonies or out in front of hives, where bees typically deposit corpses of dead nestmates.

What’s more, the afflicted colonies tend to be full of honey, pollen and larvae, as if all of the workers in the nest precipitously decamped on some prearranged signal. Beekeepers are up in arms — last month, leaders in the business met with research scientists and government officials in Florida to figure out why the bees are disappearing and how to stop the losses. Nobody had any answers.

That beekeepers are alarmed over this situation is understandable, but, just as in the movies, the public may not recognize the magnitude of the threat that these mysterious events present.

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