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      Mysterious blight is killing off thousands of bees

      What's killing all the bees? For years, scientists have been puzzled by an unknown ailment that's causing honeybees to die off.

      Thousands of hives have been lost across the country, including some in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee.

      It's a concern to Socastee beekeeper Ron Weaver, who was called to remove a mass of bees from a tree in Myrtle Beach Friday.

      Weaver and his 14-year-old daughter moved slowly as they worked on the swarm, scooping up handfuls of the buzzing insects and dropping them into a wooden box.

      "You have to have a calm demeanor about you," said Weaver's daughter, Riverlee. "They reflect your personality and your attitude towards them."

      While there may seem to be plenty of bees in that swarm, the Weavers and other beekeepers are worried about what's called colony collapse disorder.

      It's the mysterious blight that's killing off millions of honeybees, including some of Weaver's.

      "It's a great loss every year to go out to your hive and the hive just completely be gone or all of them be completely dead and most of them are gone, not knowing where they go," said Ron Weaver.

      In past years, Weaver had not lost as many hives as some of his fellow beekeepers in the area and he thought he was doing something right. Then this winter, he lost 7 out of his 30 hives, the most he's ever lost in one year.

      Horry County Clemson extension agent Ben Powell says research indicates the problem is getting worse.

      Some of the big commercial beekeepers in California have lost 50 to 60 percent of their hives, he says.

      Powell believes the cause is probably a combination of things.

      "There are implications in pesticide use, there's implications in diseases that bees get, as well as other parasites," he said.

      According to the USDA, one out of every three bites of food we eat comes from crops pollinated by honeybees.

      Powell says people need to be very careful about pesticide use, especially on flowering plants. Also, he says people shouldn't just try to eliminate every bee they see on their property.

      "They are probably there doing you a service, not a disservice."