ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - "Mankind and bees have had an enduring relationship for 10,000 years. The loss of something like the honeybees would be profound," said Bob Sears.
Sears is president of the Eastern Missouri Beekeeper's Association. He's worried that bees all over the world are dying at a rate of 30 percent a year. The global stakes are high if experts can't solve the mystery of colony collapse disorder, or CCD.
If you're wondering why you should care about bees dying, the answer is as close as a farmers' market, grocery, or restaurant. Did you eat any blueberries this week? Tomatoes? Cantaloupes? Bees pollinate up to $20 billion in American agricultural crops every year.
"The worst case scenario is that a third of our food simply disappears," said bee industry veteran Jerry Hayes.
Two years ago, Monsanto bought an Israeli company Beeologics. The goal is to figure out a way to control a mite that transmits a deadly virus to bees. Monsanto recently hired Hayes to run the company's bee research efforts. He says the solution won't be easy because it's not just one thing that's killing bees in record numbers.
"That's what we all hoped 2006. That we would find that one thing, and we would solve it and we would help honey bee health forever," said Hayes.
Some experts say it's an agricultural system that relies too much on chemicals. Other experts say mites and viruses are the deadly culprits.
"There's honeybee parasites, there's diseases that all seem to be interacting for the perfect storm," said Hayes.
There is one type of insecticide called neonicotinoids that are used as seed coatings on corn and soybeans, and one theory is that's what is killing honeybees. The European Union voted this year to ban that type of insecticide for two years in an effort to protect bees. A similar ban in the U.S. would cost American companies millions.
This week's Time Magazine cover is ominous: The Price We'll Pay If We Don't Figure Out What's Killing The Honeybee.
"I think that awareness is one of the dynamics that's going to bring us to a successful outcome," said Sears