Stung: Where have all the bees gone?

Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker:

2610honeybeeNot long ago, I found myself sitting at the edge of a field with a bear and thirty or forty thousand very angry bees. The bear was there because of the bees. The bees were there because of me, and why I was there was a question I found myself unable to answer precisely.

In a roundabout sort of way, the encounter had been set in motion several months earlier, in late February, when the Times ran a story about a new ailment afflicting honeybees. It had been given a name—colony-collapse disorder—but no one had any idea what was causing it; beekeepers would open their hives only to discover that they were suddenly and mysteriously empty. According to the article, some keepers had lost seventy per cent of their colonies, and these losses, in turn, were likely to reduce the yields of crops ranging from kiwis to avocados. All this information struck me as disturbing, and therefore interesting. I thought that at some point I might want to write about it myself, and so I began to read up on bees.

The literature of apiculture is vast and seductive; I learned one amazing thing after another. Honeybees are the only animals besides humans known to have a representational language: they convey to one another the location of food by dancing. When the queen lays an egg, she is able to choose its sex. Males, known as drones, perform no useful function except to mate. They are loutish and filthy, and the workers—sterile females—tolerate their presence for a few months a year, then systematically murder them.

More here.  Video here.