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The Buzz on Colony Collapse

An insidious new class of pesticides threatens our food supply’s most important pollinators.

With a wag of its tail, a honeybee can tell its siblings where to find a flower miles away. These sophisticated creatures communicate via vibration and pheromone. Not only do bees transform nectar into honey; they also pollinate at least one-third of our food supply. Without these winged workers, many of our favorite fruits and vegetables would never ripen on the vine or branch. But there’s trouble in the hive.Honeybees began vanishing in the autumn of 2006, leaving behind empty hives and few clues. Beekeepers around the globe reported staggering losses: 30 percent to 90 percent of their bees. Historically, beehives have failed during severe winters, or disease outbreaks, but never on such a scale. This mysterious epidemic, called colony collapse disorder, is now in its seventh year.Despite the severity of the problem, scientists have been reluctant to pinpoint a cause. In fact, the causes are legion. For starters, monocrops, which have replaced small, diverse family farms nationwide, offer a stingy selection of pollen. Miles and miles of just soybeans, or corn, result in malnourished bees.Migratory pol …

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