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Honeybee Disappearance Puzzles Scientists

Beekeepers and farmers around the country are worried this year as the honeybees used to pollinate crops have been vanishing from their hives, a phenomenon known as "colony collapse disorder."

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  • SPENCER MICHELS, NewsHour Correspondent:

    In California's lush Central Valley, the fruit and nut trees are in bloom, but the honeybees that pollinate those trees so they will bear fruit are in short supply.

    One of California's top crops, almonds, is completely dependent on bees for pollination. There aren't nearly enough wild or native bees to do the job, and California commercial beekeepers can supply only half of the hives needed.

    So bees raised by migratory beekeepers from around the country are trucked in, but this year there's a big problem.

    So this is what, is it like a cemetery for beehives?

  • LANCE SUNDBERG, Beekeeper:

    Yes, in a way, it is.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    Late last year, beekeeper Lance Sundberg brought 2,100 colonies of bees to California from Montana and other states. A month later, he discovered that two-thirds of the bees had disappeared.

  • LANCE SUNDBERG:

    It was like as if they took off and went to work, and they just failed to come back. And no sign of dead bees, and that's the unusual phenomenon.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    Many of the bees died or vanished before he could rent them out to growers, apparently victims of a nationwide problem now being called colony collapse disorder.

    He stacked completely dead hives under tarps. Here, so-called robber bees are stealing abandoned honey, and he's put ailing hives beside a lake hoping they might recover.

  • LANCE SUNDBERG:

    So a normal colony at this time would have bees wall-to-wall.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    That would be 30,000 bees probably.

  • LANCE SUNDBERG:

    Thirty thousand to sixty thousand bees. And right now, this one's down to probably 3,500 bees or less.

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