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Taiwan mislays millions of honeybees

'Volatile weather' to blame for mysterious disappearance?

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Taiwan's beekeepers are reporting the mass disappearance of millions of honeybees, Reuters reports.

According to the country's TVBS television station, around 10 million bees have gone awol in the last two months, with farmers in three regions reporting heavy losses. One beekeeper on the northeast coast told the United Daily News that six million insects had vanished "for no reason", while another in the south said "80 of his 200 bee boxes had been emptied".

While the exact reason for the exodus is unknown, experts say "volatile weather" may be to blame. The temperature recently swung from 20°C to 30°C over a few days, and this may have done for the bees. Yang Ping-shih, entomology professor at the National Taiwan University, said: "You can see climate change really clearly these days in Taiwan."

The impact of the bees' absence has yet to be felt, although it could have a serious effect on pollination. Taiwan's Council of Agriculture "may collect data to study the causes of the vanishing bees and gauge possible impacts", according to pesticides section chief Kao Ching-wen. He said: "We want to see what the reason is, and we definitely need some evidence. It's hard to say whether there will be an impact."

The Taiwanese mystery is possibly the latest manifestation of "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD), which has recently hit Europe and the US hard. In the US, CCD manifests itself as older bees die, "leaving behind the queen and young workers not yet ready to forage for pollen and nectar and insufficient in number to maintain the colony".

Experts have no real idea what causes CCD. Alleged causes range from harmful pesticides and increased solar radiation through ozone thinning, to falling queen fertility and use of unauthorised bee treatments. German researchers recently suggested mobile phone radiation may interfere with bees' "navigation systems", resulting in an inability to find their way back to the hive. ®

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