The bee picture

Dead bees, no food

July 8, 2013

Back in June, a bee catastrophe struck here in Oregon: thousands of honey bees dropping dead in a parking lot. The bees — depending on reports, either 25,000 or 50,000 of them — had been harvesting pollen from blooming linden trees, unaware that the trees had been recently sprayed with pesticide. Now the trees are wrapped in bee-proof netting, but the damage has been done.

As John Upton noted on Grist last month, the planet’s honey bees just keep dying at astronomical rates. Last year, in what’s been called the Beepocalypse, nearly a third of the commercial honey-bee colonies in the U.S. were wiped out. In early July, some 37 million honey bees were found dead in Canada.

Upton’s also not pleased with the beewashing going on at the companies that manufacture bee-killing pesticides; Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, and Monsanto, he wrote, are touting their bee-research efforts while downplaying the role of their own pesticides in destroying bees.

Meanwhile, Fast Company has documented an unusual art-and-awareness project at a Rhode Island Whole Foods grocery store: photographing the produce section with its usual array of bounty, then photographing it again with all of the bee-dependent produce removed. What’s left? Less than half of what was there before, mostly citrus, rhubarb, and asparagus.

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