This is one of those lovely American pieces of journalism. The “long form” stuff which they insist is the very apex of the professional life. The sort of thing that wins awards and all that, the stuff that everyone coming out of journalism school thinks themselves armed to write. It’s also the stuff that gets the big bucks. A dollar or two per word plus hefty travel expenses. Because nothing is ever done by looking it up. Always, but always, there must be direct interviews with people actually involved. The story isn’t told by “Here’s what’s happening” but by stitching together quotes to tell said story. The garnering of the quotes requiring much travel.
I detest it to be honest but this is what they seem to like over there. Or at least this is what they seem to like producing. The readers seem ever less willing to pay the costs of its production.
So, honey bees being killed off by pollinating almond trees.
‘Like sending bees to war’: the deadly truth behind your almond-milk obsession
Bees are essential to the functioning of America’s titanic almond industry – and billions are dying in the process
Well, yes, we can tell how this will go. Big business is killing the bees. Capitalist production in large monocultures – jeez, we can write the underlying points in our sleep by now.
The problem being, well, the problem:
This shouldn’t be happening to someone like Arp, a beekeeper with decades of experience. But his story is not unique. Commercial beekeepers who send their hives to the almond farms are seeing their bees die in record numbers, and nothing they do seems to stop the decline.
Bees die do they? Oh.
A recent survey of commercial beekeepers showed that 50 billion bees – more than seven times the world’s human population – were wiped out in a few months during winter 2018-19.
Big number. In only a few months. Gosh.
Beekeepers attributed the high mortality rate to pesticide exposure, diseases from parasites and habitat loss.
However, environmentalists and organic beekeepers maintain that the real culprit is something more systemic: America’s reliance on industrial agriculture methods, especially those used by the almond industry, which demands a large-scale mechanization of one of nature’s most delicate natural processes.
Honeybees thrive in a biodiverse landscape. But California’s almond industry places them in a monoculture where growers expect the bees to be predictably productive year after year.
Capitalism, innit, The Man.
But no other class of livestock comes close to the scorched-earth circumstances that commercial honey bees face. More bees die every year in the US than all other fish and animals raised for slaughter combined.
Possibly even species imperialism, the surprise is no Lenin quote so far.
“The high mortality rate creates a sad business model for beekeepers,” says Nate Donley, a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s like sending the bees to war. Many don’t come back.”
Can we shall remember them in the morning, in the evening, be far behind?
Now he routinely loses 30% or more of his bees a year, mirroring national statistics. In any other industry, the death of a third of your workforce would cause an international outcry – but this staggering loss is now considered the normal cost of doing business.
Tsk, eh? Do the almond growers wear top hats? Are the young bees stuffed up chimneys?
“The bees in the almond groves are being exploited and disrespected,” says Patrick Pynes, an organic beekeeper who teaches environmental studies at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
While bees may survive the pollination season, they may not last the winter
Could be actually.
Experts say that simply working around the pesticide problem isn’t enough and that farming itself must be changed from the ground up.
Those experts would be the ones who advocate small scale and organic agriculture to create world peace as well, would they?
And now the one crucial thing we need to know to be able to evaluate this guff:
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)
The lifespan of a honey bee depends on the type of bee it is. Drone bees (male bees hatched from unfertilized eggs) live for around eight weeks. Sterile worker bees tend to live for up to six weeks during summer and five months or more during winter. However, the queen bee, the only fertile bee in the colony, can live for several years.
Bees die. That’s what bees do. The annual cull of bees is many times the population of bees. So, complaining that bees die is something of a waste of time really.
Now, we might profitably and usefully distinguish between a hive dying and a bee but that isn’t what is done. Perhaps because our soon to be award winning journalist (and I think it probably will win an award, this piece, which is one of the problems American journalism has) doesn’t know the difference. Or she does and we’ve instead the phenomenon known as propaganda by obfuscation.
No wonder there’s a certain punter hesitation in paying for this shit.
Yep. Good gig if you can get it but there’s no reason the rest of us have to believe one word of it.