Beekeeper watches city hives fall silent

The hinged lid of the hive swings up with a creak. I could swear the air tightens with anticipation. But if so, it's all mine; Kerry McCurdy isn't expecting any surprises. He knows he'll find either dead bees or no bees, because that's what he's been finding, week after week, for two long months.

The two hives, beneath the fig tree and among the blazing orange clivia flowers, are not the classic shape, like the ones on the matchboxes, or the stacked wooden boxes we are all familiar with; they're long, lidded plywood chests, big enough to accommodate several dozen of the frames that bees will pack with honey.