Peter Godfrey-Smith, in Other Minds, relates one bee biologist’s description of colony collapse.
So what’s the factor that’s causing it? He replied that as far as they can tell there is no single factor. Instead, over many years, more and more small stresses have appeared in the lives of bees: more pollutants, more new microorganisms, less habitat. For a long while, as these stresses accumulated, bees were able to cope. Colonies absorbed the stress by working harder. Although they weren’t obviously and visibly suffering, the capacity of the bees to buffer these problems was being slowly worn out. Eventually a critical point was reached, and honeybee colonies just started to fail. They failed dramatically — visibly — not because some sudden pest had swept through, but because their capacity to absorb the stresses had run out.
File this under, when writ small, metaphors for autistic overwhelm; writ large, metaphors for autistic burnout.