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February 12, 2007 Mystery Disease Is Threat to Bee Colonies
STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Feb. 11 (AP) A mysterious illness is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination.
Researchers are scrambling to find the cause of the ailment, called colony collapse disorder.
Reports of unusual colony deaths have come from at least 22 states. Some commercial beekeepers have reported losing more than 50 percent of their bees.
A colony can have roughly 20,000 bees in the winter and up to 60,000 in the summer. Commercial beekeepers often have thousands of colonies.
The countrys bee population had already been hurt in recent years by a tiny parasitic bug called the varroa mite, which had destroyed more than half of some beekeepers hives and devastated most wild honeybee populations.
Commercial bee colonies are also important pollinators, along with some birds, bats and other insects. A recent report by the National Research Council noted that three-quarters of all flowering plants, including most food crops and some that provide fiber, drugs and fuel, rely on pollinators for fertilization.
Dave Hackenberg, of Hackenberg Apiaries in Lewisburg, Pa., was the first to report the disorder to bee researchers at Pennsylvania State University. He notified them in November when he was down to about 1,000 colonies after having started the fall with 2,900.
We are going to take bees we got and make more bees, but its costly, Mr. Hackenberg said.
Daniel Weaver, president of the American Beekeeping Federation, said the
situation was serious. Whether it threatens the apiculture industry
in the United States or not, thats up in the air, he said.
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