A team of researchers from Iowa State University in Ames is taking a big picture look at the causes behind colony collapse disorder, the mysterious disappearance of honey bees.
Rather than focus on a specific cause, Amy Toth, an assistant professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, will lead a team looking at the interaction of many factors, according to a news release.
Researchers first dubbed the mysterious bee decline colony collapse disorder in 2006.
But beekeepers had reported annual colony losses of 15 percent to 20 percent before that.
In recent years, they've experienced losses of 30 percent to 40 percent and even as high as 70 percent in Iowa.
Colony collapse disorder is marked by the disappearance of adult worker bees, which are responsible for supplying food for the colony and taking care of the young.
Some researchers have already published research that focuses on a specific virus or pesticide as causing colony collapse disorder.
Toth and her group theorize that the bees are under nutritional stress as they leave to forage.
When combined with viral symptoms, such as seizures and paralysis, the bees never return to the hive.
They will work with state apiarist Andrew Joseph, who will travel Iowa to collect bees from affected colonies.
The researchers will establish small, experimental colonies of 2,000 bees at the University.
Some colonies will receive nutrient-poor diets and others nutrient-rich diets.
The researchers will compare the healthy of each colony as well as compare the experimental colonies to those in the wild.