1/20/2020Save the Honeybee, Sterilize the Earth - Pacific Standard1/11To drive through California's Central Valley is to witness farming on a baffling scale.For hundreds of miles along either side of Highway 99—which splits the valley fromthe college town of Chico in the north to the sprawling, boxy city of Bakersfield in thesouth—are orderly corridors of grapevines and cherry trees, followed by flat expansesof yams, followed by fields of carrots and the gigantic harvesters that yank them fromthe ground by the thousands. Dwarfing all these crops, however, are row after row ofsnaggly black-limbed almond trees, punctuated occasionally by monolithic towerswhere the nuts are shelled. In recent years, these almond groves have grown to coveralmost a million acres; they now produce four-fifths of all the almonds in the world.The Central Valley is a paradoxical place, both desolate and tremendously fertile. AsJoan Didion, a native of the region, wrote in 1965, the towns there “hint at eveningsspent hanging around gas stations, and suicide pacts sealed in drive-ins,” yet “U.S. 99in fact passes through the richest and most intensely cultivated agricultural region inthe world, a giant outdoor hothouse with a billion-dollar crop.” Generations of farmershave transformed this arid and flat valley into a machine that produces more than athird of the vegetables in the United States and nearly two-thirds of the fruits andnuts. To keep running, it must be fed with tremendous quantities of fertilizer, floodedwith water pumped from deep underground or diverted from the Sacramento and SanJoaquin rivers, doused with insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, and harvested byan arsenal of lumbering machinery. But for the system to work, it also needs bees.Today, to pollinate California’s almond crop alone requires the services of up to three-quarters of all the managed honeybees in the United States. And they don’t get to thevalley on their own; the bees are trucked in by the billion from as far away as Floridaeach January, just before the trees begin to bloom.JOSH DZIEZAJOSH DZIEZA·UPDATED:UPDATED: JUN 14, 2017JUN 14, 2017·ORIGINAL:ORIGINAL: JAN 5, 2015JAN 5, 2015
1/20/2020Save the Honeybee, Sterilize the Earth - Pacific Standard2/11When I step out of my car on a dusty Central Valley bluff where the beekeeper ZacBrowning is unloading his hives, I’m surrounded by the sound of a strenuous C note.There are bees crawling on metal drums of wax, bees roiling on the spigots of plasticsyrup vats, bees on the trucks and forklifts parked along the rim of the escarpment.