Your Nuts Are Making California a Squalid "Bee Bordello"

How our appetite for industrial-farmed almonds creates an orgy of sickly, exhausted bees. And why that's a really bad thing

In February and early March, millions of bees make a forced nighttime migration to California’s Central Valley, where they gorge themselves on nectar and spread the sexual dust of almond blossoms between trees. It’s necessary for the lucrative almond crop. And bees from all over—from Maine and Florida—converge in one place for the first big orgiastic feast of the season. Michael Pollan dubbed it a “bee bordello.” When sick or exhausted bees travel they accelerate the risk of spreading mites and viruses like apiary STDs in the stressful, epidemiological risky squalor of large-scale farming.

The concentration of bees—first in the almond groves, then on the nation’s apple orchards and blueberry barrens—appears to be a contributing factor in Colony Collapse Disorder. Bees can’t live in a single area all year because the almond crop only flowers once, and this monoculture, or lack of plant diversity, means they have to travel if they want to eat for the rest of the year. And on some of these stops, growers subject bees to a chemical warfare of herbicides and pesticides, which has been singled out as the primary factor in honeybee decline.

Still, it’s hard for scientists to pinpoint just one cause and often the missing part of the picture is the biggest part. Over the same period of time that domestic honeybee colonies dwindled and wild pollinators declined, the untold part of the story is that the total number of bees worldwide increased. So the problem, Nathaneal Johnson wrote in an excellent piece in Conservation, is that “the production of pollinator-dependent crops has quadrupled.” In other words, a 40 percent increase in the world’s bees mean far less when there’s also a 400 percent increase in flowering plants that need those same bees to produce fruit.

This may help explain why bees are so valuable. And the next time you look around the supermarket, consider how the demand for luxury crops like almonds, watermelon, cashews, and chocolate has thrown the ecological balance of bees into question. Whether or not they’re from an organic orchard that didn’t spray neonicotinoids, when you reach for a bag of almonds, nine times out of ten they came from California, and, remember, the bee bordello is only the first stop of their national feeding frenzy that brings you luxurious nuts and fruits all year round.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Brandon Brubaker

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet