WEWAHITCHKA, Fla. - The bees in this Florida Panhandle community renowned for its tupelo honey have so far escaped a mysterious killer that has wiped out a quarter of the nation's bee colonies.

Honeybees in the Apalachicola River swamps around Wewahitchka have been busy making the premium, floral-flavored honey since early May, hindered only by a persistent drought, beekeepers said.

Beekeepers in 27 states, however, have reported in the past few months that their bees have suddenly vanished. Similar disappearances have been reported in Brazil, Canada and parts of Europe.

Scientists have dubbed it colony collapse disorder, though they have not been able to determine what's causing it.

A study released earlier this month pointed to some kind of disease or parasite, but Roy Lee Carter, Gulf County's agriculture agent, speculates that pesticides may be to blame.

Gulf County has few fields where crops are grown and sprayed with pesticides, so bees here may be somewhat protected, Carter said.

County officials say a bee die-off here could fracture the economy, which is dependent on the tupelo honey, as well as a prison and fishing.

Made famous by the 1997 film "Ulee's Gold" and celebrated at the annual Tupelo Honey Festival in Wewahitchka, tupelo honey sweetens the state economy by about $2.4 million a year.

Northwest Florida, along the Chipola and Apalachicola rivers, is the only place where the honey is produced commercially.

Ben Lanier continues the honey making business his grandfather started in 1898. He also believes chemical spraying may be behind the bee die-offs elsewhere. He said the county mosquito spraying two years ago killed many of the bees he raises himself.

Isolation and breeding may be what's saving the colonies that support L.L. Lanier & Son's Tupelo Honey, but it may be their ruin, too, he said.

"I've got the same stock that I've had for 25 years, and they're real good bees," Lanier said. "They're real good and it wasn't their fault that they didn't fill up these boxes. It was all dry weather."


LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Jim Gabriel worried last year about dry conditions damaging his corn crops.

Now, Gabriel and other Kansas corn farmers have the opposite worry _ recent rains could keep them from finishing their planting and flood acres already planted.

"The rains really held us up and then the river got out and did a little flooding and we had to do some replanting," Gabriel said.

Gabriel farms near Eudora in eastern Kansas and has land near the Kansas River.

Gabriel recently planted about 75 percent of the 2,000 acres he had set aside for corn and he had to replant about 100 acres because of flooding.

Farmers generally like to have their corn crop planted by now, said Bill Wood, an agriculture extension agent in Douglas County.

Corn planted after May 15 starts to lose potential yield, he said. Generally, the harvest begins in mid-August.

"We got our ponds full; our creeks are running full; our soil is full of moisture," Wood said. "We just need some sunshine."

Kansas State University's extension service has reported that much of eastern Kansas' soil is saturated with water, which could slow root growth. Too much water over an extended period makes the soil cooler, which also limits growth, Wood said.

"Tilling some soils when they are too wet can produce large, persistent clods, complicate planting, reduce herbicide effectiveness and destroy seedbed," Price said.