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Disappearing Bees and Reluctant Regulators (Perspectives)

Issues in Science and Technology 2011, Summer, 27, 4

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Imagine this: You're a commercial beekeeper, who relies entirely on keeping honeybees for making a living. You head out one morning to examine your bees and find that thousands of your previously healthy hives have "collapsed" mysteriously, after your bees pollinated crops in the fields of one of the farmers with whom you contract. Your bees have abandoned their hives, and they've not returned. Beginning in the winter of 2004-2005, many U.S. beekeepers, especially commercial ones, saw this happening. Several commercial beekeeping operations lost between 30 and 90% of their hives, a figure significantly higher than the roughly 15% that is common when hives are afflicted with parasitic mites or common diseases or when bees suffer from poor nutrition. Half a decade later, losses have remained troublingly high, hovering around 30% in each subsequent year.