After decline, honey bees appear to be making a comeback

For years, honey bees have been dying off at an alarming rate. The phenomenon known as "Colony Collapse Disorder" has local apple growers concerned because they depend on the honey bees to pollinate their trees.

Scientists believe there could be multiple causes of Colony Collapse Disorder including pesticides, parasites and the loss of the honey bee's natural habitat. To help protect bee colonies, farmers and bee keepers have changed the way they handle the bees and have tried to cut down or eliminate all together the practice of transporting the bee hives for long distances.

Cornell University is also studying ways to increase native honey bee populations, and Congress is now considering banning pesticides that some scientists say are harming the bees.

All these efforts appear to be paying off. A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the percentage of honey bee colony die-offs decreased by more than 30 percent last year. That is good news for apple growers like Pete Fleckenstein at Beak and Skiff in LaFayette who says the bees are critical for the farm to function.

"Without the bees there would be no apples and we'd be out of business," he says.