Bee Heists

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.

Something About the Bees

In fits of nostalgia, I have bemoaned the loss of bygone items and activities. No, not 8 tracks or vinyl, but more like the bliss of ignorance. Somehow, not knowing what everyone I know ate for dinner last night or that a hit and run accident happened in some town called Smartsville hundreds of miles away is something that strikes me nostalgic. I miss the quietude of select pieces of information entering into my sphere of knowledge. I miss the word intrusion that had meaning, not like now where it will be erased from common usage given that there is nowhere to hide from anyone else in the world.
In particular, however, I will miss the bees.
Not just because I grew up with them, just like I grew up with aluminum street roller skates and homemade skateboards of wood blocks mounted atop those skates. But because our world depends on them, more than we know. I am not an alarmist. I shy away from ringing any alarm bells for a cause as I am a subscriber to the crying wolf wisdom. Save the fire alarm for what most needs sounding. The bees need a five alarm fire warning, for they are sounding bells for us in their departure. Why are the bees leaving us?
Not that they are going off for good. Most bees abandoning us are domesticated slaves to the agriculture industry, shuttled from farm to farm to pollinate crops, but it’s not only the pesticides that are killing off these slave bees. Those in the wild know better than to go where the pesticides waft in the wind through miles of wheat stalks or almond trees. It’s also the stress. The suffering, farm-raised, overworked honey bees are one of the most threatened populations–enslaved pollinators chained to their instincts and the dollars that drive their keepers and chemical companies. While the EPA as well as the world looks away.
Bees are responsible for a third of all we ingest.
Agribusiness practices include bee transportation across countries where they are released to pollinate crops: a month feeding on blueberries then another month on almonds and another month on some other fruit or vegetable plants, season to season, place to place. Keepers earn their keep.
The artificial dietary conditions and non-stop travel schedule stress these insects that vibrate to one another and radar their stress all along the colony, a highly systematized bee industrial complex inside the hive. They want out.
The smart bees have left the building–abandoned their hives, collapsed their colony. They punched their final time card in the clock.
Stress and pesticides are forcing the bees out. Their disappearance is a message to those who can decode it. I will miss the bees.

Photo: Bobby Doherty