Scientists trying to crack the Colony Collapse Syndrome (CCD) mystery that's killed millions of beehives worldwide, may be onto something, according to Scientific American:
The growing consensus among researchers is that multiple factors such as poor nutrition and exposure to pesticides can interact to weaken colonies and make them susceptible to a virus-mediated collapse. In the case of our experiments in greenhouses, the stress of being confined to a relatively small space could have been enough to make colonies succumb to IAPV and die with CCD-like symptoms. More recent results from long-term monitoring have identified other unexpected factors for increased colony loss, including the fungicide chlorothalonil. Research is now focused on understanding how these factors relate to colony collapse.
It's a long piece with a lot of science talk, but essentially, CCD is like AIDS for bees. It compromises their immune systems, which leaves the bees vulnerable to other infections like IAPV, or Israeli acute paralysis virus, which has caused paralytic seizures in many hives. Since one third of the world's agricultural production depends on honeybees, figuring this out is more than just saving honey. If left unsolved, it could mean that apples, broccoli and almonds will, some day, be the food of kings. [via kottke]