1 IN 3 BITES OF FOOD WE OWE TO BEES

Anyone keeping up with the state of the ecosystem knows that bees are in trouble.  They're like the canary in the mine.  Some might argue Monarch butterflies are, but for now, let's focus on bees.

One out of every three morsels of food you and I eat owes its production to bees.  We're all quite familiar with the common culprits:  pesticides and chemicals in general, tiny parasitic mites, and climate change.  When winters are too warm, bees come out of their hives and burn up precious energy flying around.  They go through their honey stockpile too fast and then starve to death before new blossoms come out in the spring.  Warm winter days are death on bees.

But I want to point out another issue you don't hear much about.  That is the wholesale movement of bee colonies for pollination.  Most people have a warm fuzzy feeling about this, like isn't that the coolest thing, to bring in a tractor trailer load of bees from 500 miles away to pollinate oranges in Florida or canola in Alberta? 

We have this naive response to massive bee movement that indicates a cheerleader mentality.  "Oh boy, here come the bees!  Bees to the rescue.  Rah, rah, rah, go get 'em, bees!"

Actually, bees are extremely territorial.  They don't like to move.  They like to stay in one place, becoming more familiar and acclimated, passing down heritable adaptation from season to season, offspring to offspring.  Why must we move thousands and thousands of hives around the country like this?

Because we've monospeciated and monocropped our practices to the point that we don't have a sustained flow of blossoms to feed the bees all the time.  Without flora diversity in the ecosystem, it can't sustain year-round pollinators.  It's feast one day, famine the next. 

The next time you read or hear about bee yards being transported for pollination, don't cheer for the bees; shed a tear that they've been ripped away from their home and transported overnight to some unknown place where they must learn to navigate new routes from home to food.  This whole procedure is just one more assault on our friends and allies in nature.  That we disrespect them with such wholesale abandon and paint this as a productive, salvational procedure, should bring us to our knees in repentance.

Yes, it's amazing they still function.  Yes, it's amazing that any of them survive.  Yes, it's an amazing service.  But moving nests around indicates famine in the countryside.  Instead of rejoicing over our cleverness and the bees' resilience, we should be repenting in sackcloth and ashes, eating instead food from farmers who diversify their systems and enjoy weeds in their fencerows.

Do you have sugar on your dining room table, or honey?

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