November 2006. A Pennsylvania beekeeper reports his bees are gone without a trace. Within days, similar devastating reports are coming in from across America. Soon, news from abroad: major hive losses in France, mysterious vanishings in Spain. By January 2007, the plague has a name - Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) - but not an explanation. An insect crucial to our food supply and economy has disappeared in droves, and no one has yet been able to say why.
From crop fields to hi-tech labs, NATURE follows scientists and bee experts investigating a rapidly unfolding ecological nightmare when "Silence of the Bees" airs Sunday, October 28, 7 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7. The kick-off of NATURE's 26th season is available in high definition. Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham is series narrator.
"This is the first in-depth documentary to cover this breaking story of ecological crisis," says Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE. "People may be stunned to discover just how dire the consequences of honeybee colony collapse could be."
Honeybees are responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat. Each year, they pollinate $14 billion worth of crops and seeds in the U.S. alone. Their total decimation would be catastrophic, from the local to the global level - failed businesses, skyrocketing food prices, unsustainable labor costs and depleted supplies of fruits, nuts, vegetables, plants and more.
"This is like C.S.I. for agriculture - it is painstaking, gumshoe detective work," says Dr. Ian Lipkin, a researcher at the country's premier human pathogen lab at Columbia University, who was enlisted to help crack the mystery of CCD.
"Silence of the Bees" examines a number of scientific theories about the crisis. Is CCD caused by pesticides? Genetically modified crops? An AIDS-like virus? Is it even a new plague or is it perhaps a recurring cycle? The search for CCD's cause takes viewers from the northeast United States to London, Paris, Provence, Southern Spain and Sichuan Province in China.
Less than a year after the alarm was sounded, scientists are close to identifying the cause of the die-offs that began last November — but the honeybees may not be in the clear yet.
NATURE's "Silence of the Bees" airs Sunday, October 28, 7 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7.
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