… In the United States, bees in fact have been in decline since World War II. We have half the number of managed hives in the United States now compared to 1945. We’re down to about two million hives of bees, we think. And the reason is, after World War II, we changed our farming practices. We stopped planting cover crops. We stopped planting clover and alfalfa, which are natural fertilizers that fix nitrogen in the soil, and instead we started using synthetic fertilizers. Clover and alfalfa are highly nutritious food plants for bees. And after World War II, we started using herbicides to kill off the weeds in our farms. Many of these weeds are flowering plants that bees require for their survival. And we started growing larger and larger crop monocultures. Now we talk about food deserts, places in our cities, neighborhoods that have no grocery stores. The very farms that used to sustain bees are now agricultural food deserts, dominated by one or two plant species like corn and soybeans. Since World War II, we have been systematically eliminating many of the flowering plants that bees need for their survival. And these monocultures extend even to crops that are good for bees, like almonds. Fifty years ago, beekeepers would take a few colonies, hives of bees into the almond orchards, for pollination, and also because the pollen in an almond blossom is really high in protein. It’s really good for bees. Now, the scale of almond monoculture demands that most of our nation’s bees, over 1.5 million hives of bees, be transported across the nation to pollinate this one crop. And they’re trucked in in semi-loads, and they must be trucked out, because after bloom, the almond orchards are a vast and flowerless landscape….
… And then there’s pesticides. After World War II, we started using pesticides on a large scale, and this became necessary because of the monocultures that put out a feast for crop pests. Recently, researchers from Penn State University have started looking at the pesticide residue in the loads of pollen that bees carry home as food, and they’ve found that every batch of pollen that a honeybee collects has at least six detectable pesticides in it, and this includes every class of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and even inert and unlabeled ingredients that are part of the pesticide formulation that can be more toxic than the active ingredient. This small bee is holding up a large mirror. How much is it going to take to contaminate humans?”