The loss of honey bees could have an enormous agricultural and economic effect worldwide. Researchers are scrambling for clues, any clues, into the recent, baffling disappearance of honeybees across the United States, a potentially catastrophic trend that threatens the hundred or more food crops dependent on bees for pollination. Unless someone or something stops it soon, the mysterious killer that is wiping out many of America’s honeybees could have a devastating effect on the country’s dinner plate, perhaps even reducing its people to a glorified bread-and-water diet. The almond trees are blooming and the bees are dying, and nobody knows why. All up and down California’s vast San Joaquin Valley, nearly 2,500 square kilometers of small nut trees arranged in laser-straight rows are shaking off the cobwebs of winter. They’re gearing up once again to produce nearly half a billion kilograms of nuts, worth US $3 billion to the U.S. economy (Pettisan).
The trees cannot produce the bounty on their own, however. They need bees-- a million hives worth-- trucked in from nearly forty U.S. states to move pollen from one tree to another, fertilizing the blooms in the largest managed pollination event on Earth. But even as the beekeepers reap record fees for renting their hives, their livelihood is now threatened by the largest loss of honey bees in the history of the industry.
Beginning in October 2006, some beekeepers began reporting losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. While colony losses are not unexpected during winter weather, the magnitude of loss suffered by some beekeepers was highly unusual. From 1971 to 2006 approximately half of the U.S. honey bee colonies have vanished.
No single factor or agent emerged as a definitive cause of the phenomenon. Then best hypothesis is that particular virulent combination of parasites and pathogens may interact to produce lethal consequences to the colonies in an environmental context...