Sunday, October 10, 2010

Culprit ID on Worldwide Honeybee Die-Off

Over the past few years, there's been some panic over a dramatic decrease in the world's honeybee population, an occurrence that has left many experts scratching their heads. Now it appears as though part of the bee die-off mystery has been solved.

As reported by Kirk Johnson of the New York Times, a somewhat odd pairing of entomologists and military scientists has pinpointed likely culprits: a fungus and a virus, both of which flourish in cool, wet environments. While scientists aren't certain, they believe the fungus and virus work together to hamper the insect's digestive system. Each is relatively harmless on its own, Johnson says, but their combination is deadly.

The findings by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana are outlined in a paper published by the Public Library of Science's PLoS One.

The honeybee die-off -- populations in the United States alone are believed to have dropped 20 percent to 40 percent -- was a source of growing concern because of the vital role bees play in the food chain.

As a 2007 "60 Minutes" report on the die-off noted, the bees are "crucial to the production of one-third of the foods we eat" because of their role in pollination.

YOU CAN HELP! Consider planting a bee garden: Designing and Planting a Bee Garden

Read the entire article and view video.

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