Honey, I shrunk the hive

The mysterious deaths of honeybees have had farmers (and anyone who likes to eat) concerned lately (See Green, “Beekeepers stung by disease,” June 14). Now, scientists have identified Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) as the latest possible offender of Colony Collapse Disorder. While parasitic mites, pesticides and poor nutrition are all still suspects, the virus turned up nearly every time in surveys of honeybees from wiped-out colonies. Bees in thriving colonies didn’t show a trace of the virus. The scientists, led by Dr. W. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University, said the virus is a red flag that a colony is at-risk and should be quarantined.

Colony Collapse Disorder hit 50 to 90 percent of commercial honeybee hives in the United States. The bees pollinate more than 90 popular crops, such as apples, nuts, avocados, broccoli, cantaloupe and other melons. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says about one-third of our diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and honeybees are responsible for 80 percent of that pollination.