Riot police battle beekeepers

These Chilean beekeepers chose the wrong place to set 60 colonies of bees. Or maybe the right place, as their plight drew national attention. Four beekeepers were arrested, seven riot police were hospitalized due to bee stings, and at least that many honey bees died during the protest.

Chilean beekeepers have suffered from a prolonged drought (which started in 2010). Crop failures, rising input costs, and a fractured market have left many of them desperate. I’ve been to Chile a few times to visit beekeepers there. They are among the best in the world. They were also pleasant and kindly folks, so it seemed to me that they would be hard-pressed to provoke this sort of civil unrest in front of the presidential palace in Santiago.

This demonstration of beekeepers and about one million honey bees attracted the attention of local (and world) media, and particularly highlighted Chile’s ongoing mega-drought. Chile (especially in the north) is one of the driest places on Earth. Now it’s even more arid, mostly due to a south Pacific “blob” of hot ocean water. According to the American Meteorological Society (see Journal of Climate, 2021), the unusual patch of hot water is at least partly caused by man-made climate change. There’s not a lot that the president of Chile can do about that (though Santiago recently converted nearly all buses to electric, with the rest natural-gas powered). However, the protesting beekeepers are hoping that the government will support honey prices and offer subsidies to keep beekeepers in business.

Meanwhile, the Carabiniers (Chile’s national police) evicted the bees. Although some members of the public were disturbed by the sudden presence of honey bees on the sidewalks, most locals were taking the traditional January month off outside the city, so the potential hazard was limited. In general, Chileans appreciate their beekeepers so it’s doubtful that the protesters will be punished.

(Photos from Reuters’ Commodities news section.)

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Ron has written two books, dozens of magazine and journal articles, and complements his first book, Bad Beekeeping, with the blog at badbeekeepingblog.com. Ron wrote his most recent book, The Mountain Mystery, for everyone who has looked at a mountain and wondered what miracles of nature set it upon the landscape. For more about Ron, including some cool pictures taken when he was a teenager, please check Ron's site: miksha.com.
This entry was posted in Climate, Culture, or lack thereof, Save the Bees, Stings, Strange, Odd Stuff and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Riot police battle beekeepers

  1. Anonymous says:

    With regards to the cause of the drought, can anyone say El Niño?

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    • Ron Miksha says:

      The last El Niño, of course, ended in 2019 and the region is currently in an El Niña (cooling) stage. Anyway, this has been a progressively worsening problem (a dozen years) for Chile, and the American Meteorological Society partially (not fully) implicates anthropogenic warming. So the plight of beekeepers and their desperation is not due to the periodic El Niño effect. But so it goes.
      Ron

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  2. Re: “the unusual patch of hot water is at least partly caused by man-made climate change”…
    While El Niño and La Niña are naturally occurring events for millennia, I have been wondering for a very long time about the cumulative effects of underwater nuclear testing on the Earth’s Oceans – and not just the initial, massive influx of HEAT, but also acidification of the water, immediate and long-term loss of aquatic life and on and on…

    Like

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