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Bee deaths set apiculture congress abuzz

MONTPELLIER, France — Pesticides, viruses, industrialised farming, fungus... what on Earth is killing our bees?
That's the big question being asked at Apimondia, the 41st world apiculture congress, where 10,000 beekeepers, entomologists and other actors in the honey business are gathered in this southern French city until Sunday.
Across parts of North America and swathes of Europe, but also now in patches of Asia, bee hives have been struck by a mysterious ailment dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
At normal times, bee communities naturally lose around five percent of their numbers. But in CCD, a third, a half -- sometimes even 90 percent -- of the insects can be wiped out. Eerily, no bodies are typically found near the hive.
The phenomenon is alarming for beekeepers, many of them small-scale operators or hobbyists, who lack the clout and subsidy support that other agricultural sectors enjoy.
But food experts and environmental scientists are also worried.
The Western honey bee is a vital link in the food chain, fertilising nearly 100 kinds of crops.
Around a third of the food on our plates gets there thanks to Apis mellifera.

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