Idaho's commercial honeybee operations have so far avoided a mysterious phenomenon in which the insects suddenly abandon their colonies, which is good news for the state's apple and onion crops that rely on the bees for pollination.

Still, beekeepers in the state are monitoring the situation and fear so-called "colony collapse disorder" could eventually lead to problems in the state's agricultural economy. Across America, honeybees don't just make honey; they pollinate more than 90 of the flowering crops.

"I sure hope the mystery is solved soon," said Jerry Bromenshenk, CEO and president of Bee Alert Technology Inc., a research company affiliated with the University of Montana that is monitoring the situation in surrounding states, including Idaho. "I'm not to the panic point. But it definitely warrants getting on top of it."

The mysterious colony collapse disorder is characterized by a hive with fully intact honey, but the bees are nowhere to be found. Tentative theories about what causes colony collapse disorder include a fungus, global warming or mobile phone signals interfering with bees' internal navigation.

U.S. beekeepers in the past few months have lost one-quarter of their colonies or about five times the normal winter losses. The problem started in November and seems to have spread to at least 27 states, with similar collapses reported in Brazil, Canada and parts of Europe.

When bees are stressed from heat, chemicals or starvation, they will abandon the hive and the queen goes with them. With colony collapse disorder, "the queen is left behind, and that's unusual," Bromenshenk said, adding one problem with tracking the problem is that data is inconsistent.

Beekeepers have developed their own theories on why bees are suddenly picking up and leaving their hives. They include pesticide interference, mites -- even an almost neo-Marxist angle in which overworked bees revolt from the drudgery of their lives in commercial operations in which hives are lugged from state to state following flowering crops.

"We are asking a lot of those bees," Bromenshenk said. "Wild bees don't move except once a year."

Randy Johnson, a beekeeper in Nampa, earlier this year lost more than a third of his colonies in California after bringing them to that state to help pollinate almond trees.

"They left the hive, it had food in it and the brood unemerged," Johnson said.