The mysterious widespread deaths of honey bees over the last four years has been a great worry, both to backyard gardeners and large agricultural companies. That’s why it was such welcome news last week when Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana reported they had discovered a likely cause: a fatal combination of a virus and a fungus. (You can read their research report here in the PLoS ONE online journal.)
Unfortunately, it will probably be some time before this new clue translates into a practical solution to the problem. Meanwhile, the bees continue to die. According to the New York Times, “collapsed” colonies were reported in Florida and California earlier this year, and some experts worry that the general trend now could be as bad as during the first days of the decline.
As the Times’s Kirk Johnson wrote over the weekend, this “leaves a swarm of questions about where bees, and people, go from here.” Johnson’s article is a useful recap and status report on the crisis. If you’re concerned or curious about such issues as the level of damage, the role of climate change, and the danger posed to our food supply, I recommend you read his swarm of answers.
And if you’re wondering how you can help, consider joining one of the citizen science projects below, all of which enlist volunteers to study bees.