This article is from the In-Depth Report The Buzz on Bees
60-Second Science

Searching for What's Behind the Bee Decline

One million of the 2.4 million U.S. honeybee colonies perished last winter. What's behind the die-off is still a mystery, but one researcher plans to spend this summer gathering clues

You’ve probably heard that the world’s honeybees have suffered stinging losses lately. That’s a big story for us, too—up to $12 billion in crops rely on the fuzzy flyers for pollination.  Of the 2.4 million honeybee colonies in the U.S., about one million died off this past winter. Big declines have also been seen in Europe and Asia. The die-off has been dubbed colony collapse disorder and the vanishing bee syndrome. 

A couple of species of mites that attack bees were responsible for similar dieoffs in the winters of ’95-’96 and 2000-2001. And the mites may be partly to blame for the most recent honeybee loss. But a quarter of the current carnage seems unrelated to mites or any other pests. Other suggested causes of the bee decline include genetically modified foods, parasites, pesticides, and cell phone radiation. But bee expert Nicholas Calderone of Cornell University said last week that a definitive cause remains elusive. He will spend this summer investigating honeybee colonies throughout the northeast trying to solve the case of the dead bees.  Here’s hoping he buzzes in with an answer. 


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