The buzz on bees

This spring, the CN&R reported on a mysterious bee die-off hitting beekeepers everywhere (see “Baffling case of the hives,” CN&R, March 8). What was most puzzling about the phenomenon, called “colony collapse disorder,” was that the bees weren’t dying in their hives, but rather were flying off and simply not returning.

The problem was especially worrisome for local almond farmers, who depend on bees to fertilize their trees. Each year, some 70 percent of the country’s bees are trucked to California for the February-to-March pollination season.

Well, scientists now think they know what was behind the disorder. A virus from the Middle East, called Israeli acute paralysis virus, seems strongly associated with the beekeeping operations that have experienced big losses.

Other factors—poor nutrition and stress from industrial-style beekeeping, in particular—could also have played a role in the die-off, researchers say.