Coloradans try to protect honey bees from dying of mysterious sickness

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Coloradans are doing what they can to reduce the impact of a mysterious sickness that has killed billions of honeybees since 2005.

Colony collapse disorder is getting worse—wiping out up to half the hives last year needed to pollinate our fruits and vegetables.

A parking lot at 3rd Ave. and Kalamath is abuzz with activity--literally.

Packs of people get ready to take home beehives.

Three-hundred packages, each filled with about 10,000 honeybees, wait to find new homes in Front Range backyards.

"Two summers in a row I have lost my hives. And this is the third time in three years I had to come pick up a beehive, because they die every winter," says Lahoma Howard of Fort Collins.

She and others are doing their part to help the honeybee thrive in the face of CCD.

"This year the industry has really struggled," says Chad Ragland of Apis Hive Company, which sells these honeybee packages once a year.

He’s felt the sting of the disorder, which killed up to 40-percent of his hives in Grand Junction.

"I know of a few others that lost 50, 60 or 70-percent of their hives this year. It is a devastating loss," he says.

CCD inexplicably disorients bees so they never return to their hives and die.

The loss of hives is critical. The federal Agriculture Department says a quarter of America's diet depends on pollination by honeybees.

So fewer bees means smaller harvests and higher food prices.

“We have over 60 food crops that are normal, everyday food that we eat, that you buy at the grocery store, that without bees you wouldn’t be able to get,” says Howard.

"Some people refer this to the canary in the coal mine," says Ragland.

It's unclear what bugged the bees to a greater degree last year. Some say drought, mites, viruses or pesticides.

"Whenever a colony dies you feel a sense of loss," says James Bertini who sells bee supplies through his company Denver Urban Homesteading.

He also lost two hives last year—likely weakened by the disorder.

"If they weren't affected by the elements of CCD they might not have frozen. They might have made it through that last cold snap," he says.

So he too is trying again this year—hoping this colony’s future is as sweet as the honey they make.

Bertini says anyone can help the plight of the honeybee by planting bee-friendly flowers and vegetables.

“They can help the honeybees get more food that will help them to survive,” he says.

Later this month, the Agriculture Department will issue its assessment as to why honeybee death rates are higher than they’ve ever been.