BOISE Beekeepers and scientists are anxiously watching hives this winter and hopeful that commercial colonies will still be around to handle pollination duties in the spring.
Idaho is among 35 states where a little understood phenomena of disappearing bees, called colony collapse disorder, has been reported.
At the annual Idaho Honey Producers and Honey Commission meeting here last week, beekeepers complained that no money has been appropriated to study the widespread disappearances, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Beekeepers said they want more government attention to the problem, while the media could back off.
"Scientists can't get their work done," said George Hansen, a member of the National Honey Board. "It became disruptive."
This phenomena of disappearing bees started in the fall of 2006. Since then, beekeepers from 35 states have reported massive bee die-offs attributed to the problem.
Meanwhile, the handful of scientists researching the disorder have been so inundated with calls from national and international media that they have been pulled away from their laboratories.
The mysterious colony collapse disorder is characterized by a hive with fully intact honey, but the bees are nowhere to be found.
University of Montana bee researcher Jerry Bromenshenk said he surveyed 700 beekeepers this year, and 40 percent reported losing about three-quarters of their bees, while 50 percent reported no problems.
In the past month, Bromenshenk said he has received reports from north Idaho, Arizona and Colorado in which the entire hive has vanished with its queen, but no dead or dying bees around.
Theories about what causes colony collapse disorder include imported bees, a fungus, global warming or mobile phone signals interfering with bees' internal navigation, but Bromenshenk said many of those theories have been discounted.
"The only way a cell phone can kill a bee is if you swat one with it," he said.
Bromenshenk thinks the disorder results from a combination of factors, not one underlying cause.
Some of the likely culprits include climate change, pesticides and a parasite called nosema ceranae.
The recent collapses in Idaho, Arizona and Colorado all had signs of ceranae, he said.
While honeybees are most known for honey production, their value as crop pollinators provides the greatest economic impact. About a third of the nation's food supply is dependent upon honeybees for crop pollination.
There were enough bees to pollinate U.S. crops this year, but beekeepers and farmers could face a serious problem next year and beyond if colonies continue to collapse.