Back briefly to bees:
We mentioned bees earlier.  At that time the US was facing a worrying decline in the availability of honeybees.  The particular crop that was harped on was almonds.  They are said to be good for satisfying the appetite as well as being nutritious.  As I remember, American almonds are relatively new.  It used to be they came from Iran.  They were small and colored red.  They were said to be the only amusement on the Trans Siberian railroad, so train after train packed with almond shelling Russians would pass.  The line was double tracked and one train was said to pass another every ten or fifteen minutes, making sleep a problem and leaving more time for shelling almonds.  The aisles filled inches deep.  At long intervals the train would stop at a station and the shells would be swept out onto the platform, which then would receive another train in a few minutes.  The platform would be neck deep in almond shells.

I remain skeptical.  I find it hard to tell Russian systematic catastrophes from the equally epic Russian sense of humor. 

Iranian almonds became unavailable for political reasons.  Almonds then came from California.  They are not dyed red and they are larger.  Whether they taste the same I do not remember.  Chances are they are fresher.

I had thought that absent honeybees we would starve, but apparently it was fruit and nuts that were threatened.  They are wholesome, but it’s not like losing cereal agriculture. 

Early in the epidemic it was pointed out that most states were involved, but that it was the big commercial outfits that were having trouble, the ones with huge rows of hives, flatbed trailers for delivering and marketing done on the internet.  The bees seemed simply to be abandoning their hives and vanishing.  The little mom and pop operations seemed to be having no trouble. 

Oddly, while these domesticated bees were vanishing I had two friends who found they had feral bees moving in on them.  I wonder if that was just a fluke.  I never knew it to happen any other time.

The cure was to import Australian bees, which did not seem to have the same problem.

It seemed to me at the time that this was just the bee version of urban infertility.  The commercial operations were getting excess genetic diversity and having a falling fertility just like urban humans do.  Australia probably was less commercialized. 

However there is new information.  (Saving the Honeybee.  Diana Cox-Foster and Dennis vanEngelsdorp.  SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN volume 300 number 4, page 40.)  The mom and pop versus big commercial distinction has vanished.  That would make good enough sense.  Somehow the bees were being handled differently because of the crisis.  But the distinction vanished retroactively.  From the article it would appear that there never was a difference. 

So either I was misinformed or the unexpected observation slipped from view because the cause was so unexpected.  Anyway things seem now to be improving, which is nice.

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