For the past year, scientists have been following one of the most baffling and alarming situations yet seen in nature - the abrupt collapse of bee colonies throughout the world.
Termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), it occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers.
Concerns were first raised last fall in the US, and to date the American West Coast is thought to have lost 60% of its commercial bee population and a further 70% on the East Coast. CCD has since spread to Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and most recently the UK, where one of London's largest bee-keepers has recently announced that 23 of 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.
The cause has not been identified with certainty. Deceased bees are being found with massive amounts of pathogens and widespread disease, leading some to blame pollution and environmental toxins. Others are finding evidence that the navigation systems of bees are being disrupted by radiation from the growing number of mobile phones going into use.
Either way, the situation is alarming and represents a huge risk to the environment and our food supply. Most of the pollination for US food crops is accomplished through honey bees, at an annual value of $14 billion.