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Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the official title which has been given to a mysterious problem which has been affecting bees all over the world. CCD is characterized by the complete disappearance of worker bees from their hives, leaving the other bees behind to slowly starve to death. The problem has attracted major press because bees are an important part of commercial agriculture, and, frighteningly, no one knows what causes it. Numerous groups of scientists around the world are studying Colony Collapse Disorder in an attempt to figure out the cause.
Everything from electromagnetic radiation to viruses has been postulated as a possible cause for Colony Collapse Disorder, and some scientists suspect that the problem could be caused by a combination of factors, rather than a single issue. The lack of an identifiable cause has farmers worried, since without bees, crops cannot be pollinated, and without pollination, crops will not mature. The empty hives and missing bees all over the world appear to be increasing for no apparent reason despite the best efforts of biologists.
Many theories about the cause center around microbes, bacteria, viruses, parasites, mites, and fungal infections. Beekeepers are already aware of an assortment of conditions which can cause ill health in bees, and some of these conditions are associated with the confusion and die-offs which characterize Colony Collapse Disorder. However, a single pathogen has yet to be identified, although in 2007 scientists intensified their study of the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus in the hopes of finding more answers.
Scientists have also researched various drugs such as antibiotics used in beekeeping and pesticides or herbicides used in agriculture. Pesticides could potentially have a serious impact on bees, since bees are biologically similar to some of the pests which farmers spray for. Herbicides could disrupt chemical signals from honeybees, or reduce plant diversity.
Research on Colony Collapse Disorder has also suggested that common beekeeping practices might also be linked to the problem. For example, many beekeepers move their apiaries seasonally, renting their bees out to help pollinate crops or moving the bees for different climates to enrich their honey. Beekeepers may have also adopted other practices in the late 20th century which could have contributed to the problem.
Researchers have also been looking into the impact of electromagnetic radiation such as cell phone signals on bees, theorizing that it may be confusing the worker bees so that they cannot find their way home. Others have suggested that the widespread use of genetically modified crops may be part of the problem as well.