Recently I was reminded of an article that Noémie wrote a few years ago about bees. Periodically, I hear about dying off of bees and the threat this phenomenon poses to…lets say a significant portion of life on earth.
During her research, Noémie interviewed a gentleman-beekeeper and I went along. What we discovered was quite shocking. Join us for a foray into the alternate world of waggle dances and genetic monarchy.
According to the gentleman-beekeeper, the reason the bees were dying out had to do with industrial farming. Bee hives, he explained, are moved around the country in trucks from one place to another to pollinate gigantic orchards during the appropriate season. Hives are moved on trucks between climate-zones and can fertilize say…almond trees in California one month, oranges in Florida the next.
As the bees move back and forth in trucks, the movement puts enormous stress on the hives, weakening or killing off many of the bees. Upon arrival in their new location, the bees sometimes carry diseases over great distances. The movement of bee diseases between zones then leads to the death of indigenous bees.
Now at this point you may be wondering, “what about honey farms, aren’t those bees given antibiotics?” A good question. In addition to a demand for movable pollinators, there is also a high demand for honey (which impacts stationary hives). As someone once yelled without any context on the Expo Line, “Bees collect pollen and make honey to eat later!” When farmers come to harvest the honey, they replace it with sugar so the bees have something to eat:
However, when the bees feast on delicious sugar, they have many of the same problems as a human would have if fed entirely on processed sugar. The sugar lacks important nutrients that the bees need. Consequently, the stationary bees become more susceptible to diseases carried from place to place by the moving (and increasingly aggressive) pollinator bees we talked about before.
What to do then? We need bees to pollinate our flowers and fruit trees. One possible answer is the increasingly popular hobby of urban beekeeping. Yes thats right, in addition to various other microartisanal hobbies adopted by today’s urbanite, beekeeping is making a comeback. Put down your crochet needles and put those vegan-handcrafted-ancient-grain cupcakes into a mason jar to eat for later and get your instagram-obsessed-inner-hipster a vintage bee-mask. Imagine all the “likes” from a post of mead-spritzer cocktail made from honey so locally sourced that you can see the hive from your dining room!
Consider the possibility, when asked what you do, of saying apiculturalist (and then explaining to your confused friend with an air of casual condescension, that it means “beekeeper”). Then listing the rest of your carefully curated list of hobbies: beard-oil saucier, zither player, part-time barista, and just for now until the rest takes off…paying your bills with that thing you do on the side…account executive for Citibank.
Many areas are zoned to allow a few hives on private property and as long as you’re not allergic, so hey, why not?