The following excerpts are from Der Spiegel, reposted to Truthout/Environment March 22, 2007.
Since last November, the US has seen a decline in bee populations so dramatic that it eclipses all previous incidences of mass mortality. Beekeepers on the east coast of the United States complain that they have lost more than 70 percent of their stock since late last year, while the west coast has seen a decline of up to 60 percent.
Scientists call the mysterious phenomenon “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD), and it is fast turning into a national catastrophe of sorts. A number of universities and government agencies have formed a “CCD Working Group” to search for the causes of the calamity, but have so far come up empty-handed. But, like Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, they are already referring to the problem as a potential “AIDS for the bee industry.”
It is particularly worrisome, she said, that the bees’ death is accompanied by a set of symptoms “which does not seem to match anything in the literature.”
In many cases, scientists have found evidence of almost all known bee viruses in the few surviving bees found in the hives after most have disappeared. Some had five or six infections at the same time and were infested with fungi–a sign, experts say, that the insects’ immune system may have collapsed.
…bees and other insects usually leave the abandoned hives untouched. Nearby bee populations or parasites would normally raid the honey and pollen stores of colonies that have died for other reasons, such as excessive winter cold. “This suggests that there is something toxic in the colony itself which is repelling them,” says Cox-Foster.
There is evidence that points to agents in genetically-modified corn as a possible cause. Funding to study this has not been forthcoming from the agribusiness industry. Meanwhile, see if you can find a honeybee to show your children. Hurry.
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” Albert Einstein