Almonds are Big Beesness

I watched the Oscars this year for the first time in probably 10 years. I’m not sure why, except that for the first time in forever, I had actually seen a fair number of the nominees for best film. I didn’t see the winner — Parasite — and was rooting for Little Women. Oh, well.

But when Joaquin Phoenix won best actor for his portrayal of the joker in The Joker (see how I did that?), I admit that as he began his acceptance speech, I muted the sound before I even know what evil he was trying to condemn. I only knew that he went on for a very long time. It wasn’t until the next morning that I read that his rant was in support of animal rights, particularly, I guess, for the humane treatment of cows.

Cows seem to be the focus of a lot of attention lately. Their passing of gas is being blamed in part for climate change. Good to know that I can still drive my car a block-and-a-half to the grocery store without feeling guilty, and just blame it on cows’ farts.

The latest trend in so-called clean eating is refraining from cows’ milk. You know, the cows’ milk that humans have been drinking for 6,000 to 8,000 years. I guess any milk that comes from cows’ udders should be consumed only by calves. It’s not only inhumane for the little calvies, but bad for our health. Apparently we’ve all had tummy aches for 8,000 years.

As a result, the sale and consumption of almond milk, a dairy-free beverage that looks like cows’ milk but is made from almonds, has skyrocketed. In fact, the sale of almond milk has increased by 250 percent in the past five years. That’s okay. I don’t have any problem with almond milk. I’m sure the American Dairy Association has other feelings, but hey, let them fight their own battles.

Between putting almond milk in our cereal and eating protein bars stuffed with almonds, each American eats about two pounds of almonds per year. And the huge majority of those almonds are grown in California’s Central Valley.

I recently read an article that indicated that not only do almonds take a substantial amount of water to stay healthy, they also require an enormous number of bees to pollinate the crop.

That, my friends, is bad news for the bees. Because at the same time that people are eating more and more almonds that require more and more bees, there are fewer and fewer bees to go around. Hello Colony Collapse Disorder — the phenomenon in which bees are abandoning their hives for reasons that even really, really smart people have not been able to explain. In fact, almond growers require two million bee colonies as compared to apple growers who only require 200,000 colonies.

But thanks to Good Ol’ American capitalism, the problem is being addressed. Almond growers are paying people from other states to haul their hives to California and set up a temporary camp. As you can imagine, however, this puts a lot of stress on the bees. The beekeepers have to wake up the bees a few months early to make their trip to California at the right time.  You know how cranky we all get when we have to get up early to catch a 6:15 a.m. flight.

But perhaps even more detrimental to the bees, California farm country is Pesticide Central. These nice bees that are used to breathing the fresh mountain air of, say, Salida, Colorado, are facing all sorts of diseases contributing to death.

The Almond Board of California, I’m pleased to say, is doing its part to try and solve the Case of the Dying Bees. It makes sense because they have a lot to lose as the bee population dies down. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Managing the changes brought on by our increasingly populated world must feel like that circus game where you hit the gopher on the head and another gopher pops up.

On a happier bee note, I’m pleased to announce that our granddaughter Dagny’s beekeeping efforts will double this next bee season. She has managed to talk her father/co-apiarist into a second hive. Yay on that, because D’s Bees Honey is delicious and more bees mean more honey.

When the time is right, Dagny begins draining the honey from the hive.

She bottles it and sells it.

Dagny is doing her part in saving the bees. I don’t think she even drinks almond milk.