Beekeepers nationwide are opening their hives and finding them empty, a baffling phenomenon that has researchers scratching their heads and farmers worrying about their crops.
The bees are mysteriously vanishing and no one is sure why. Instead of thriving colonies, beekeepers say they're typically finding only a queen and a few attendants left -- but no trace of the other bees, not even their bodies.
Known as colony collapse disorder, the problem has affected beekeepers in 24 states and Canada, with some losing as much as 25 percent to more than 75 percent of their hives. The sudden unexplained losses have not only been a financial detriment to many beekeepers but could threaten billions of dollars worth of crops that depend on the insects for pollination.
The cause of colony collapse disorder is unknown, although poor nutrition, mites, diseases and pesticides have all been suspect. There is also concern that some genetically modified crops may be producing pollen or nectar that is problematic for the bees.