It is not enough that bees are vanishing: sick, stressed, overworked or poisoned. No one source of colony collapse and disappearing bees can be pinpointed by consensus. Now, due to vanishing supply but unrelenting demand, bee hives are the latest coveted commodities to steal.
The Washington Post reports in As bees vanish, bee heists multiply the following:
The bee economy in California is immense. Eighty-two percent of the world’s almonds are produced within a 400-mile stretch in the state. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of un-gated almond orchards in California, all of which need to be pollinated in the span of a few weeks in February — by an ever-dwindling bee population. Beekeepers come in from across the country to fulfill contracts with farmers and brokers, moving hives to and fro on forklifts and flatbed trucks. And they come with a steep price that’s getting steeper every year.
At the start of pollination season in 2010, the average hive cost $130 to rent. Rental fees are $200 this year, and will continue going up as hives continue to die off. The industry is becoming increasingly volatile, increasingly expensive and thus, increasingly criminalized.
Bee keepers forego income most of the year, banking on readying themselves for payday when the season arrives. When their hives are stolen, they cannot recoup their losses and despite the article’s keen detective (a beekeeper himself) on the trail of these thieves, few of these crimes get solved. This business runs on slim profit margins, so keepers are unlikely to break tradition and invest a whole lot on gps and other tracking, stamping and registering technologies.
The answer lies in saving the bees, not in tracking and imprisoning the criminals (though that too should happen). Finding the cause(s) of the bee scarcity to eliminate roots out the entire chain of victims and perpetrators. Banning known pesticides that weaken, confuse and/or blind (mutes sense of smell) bees, breaking down colonies and affecting bee populations seems like a logical start–globally.
Investment in and cultivation of local beekeeping so that a variety of bee species thrive rather than feeding traditional worker bees like honey bees on intense single crop diets, i.e., all almonds or fruit trees, is another solution. Keeping local native bees to pollinate a variety of local crops has been known to grow bee populations
Bees are responsible for over 75% of our food supply. I am baffled why more attention, funding and efforts are not thrown at their plight. The bees’ lament is our own: industrialized agricultural production is killing us. We are too far from nature, mother and human.