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.)