Mystery fungus makes bees buzz off - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Mystery fungus makes bees buzz off

LAWTON, Okla. - Honeybees are losing their way, literally.  Some are leaving their hives and then cannot find their way back. Scientists say a fungus is to blame.

For years, scientists have been trying to figure out what is causing what they call "Colony Collapse Disorder".  The colony collapses because the honeybees are disoriented and do not find their way back to the hive.  The hive then dies. 

After the bees are exposed to the fungus, they just disappear.  Since the honeybee industry depends on pollination to sustain itself, when the hives disappear so do the profits for farmers.

7News visited the town of Sterling Wednesday to visit bee entrepreneur Gary Grose.  He has had problems with his hives for 3 or 4 years, so in May he had the United States Department of Agriculture come out to look at his bees.  They confirmed that his hives have symptoms of Colony Collapse Disorder.

"It's getting harder and harder to meet the demand [for honey]," said Grose.

Grose had 1,500 hives a few years ago, now he is down to 150.  He thinks the culprit may or may not be the fungus.

"For whatever reason, cell phones been blamed.  Many different causes, pollution, pesticides," said Grose.

But he has seen this fungus first-hand for years.

"This new fungus and new mold we're seeing in the colonies, once the colony collapses and dies off, then…the comb gets covered with a mystery fungus."

Once that fungus is there, the comb is useless.

"Then no matter what the bees reject that comb which is an economic loss as well from losing the equipment then we have to go back in and sterilize our equipment."

While the fungus is the biggest problem, Oklahoma's climate has not helped.

"It takes rain to make a flower and you have to have lots of flowers to make honey."

Grose is glad the USDA is working on finding a solution because it is not just the lack of honey, but also the fungus could affect much more of the food supply.

"They tell us that 1/3rd of the food we eat is directly tied to honeybee pollination.  It's crucial."

Grose says when he loses a queen, that is a $25 hit, not to mention the $150 when you lose the equipment in each colony.  He says he has lost thousands of dollars over the last few years to this disorder and hopes the USDA finds a solution soon so he can keep his business going.

Grose says this bee problem could affect dairy, cotton, and vegetable farmers because you have to have a pollinator to keep the crops going and that pollinator is the bee.

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