The Pollinators (2019) - full transcript

A cinematic journey around the United States following migratory beekeepers and their truckloads of honey bees as they pollinate the flowers that become the fruits, nuts and vegetables we all eat.

[ Reverse signal beeping ]


[ Whirring ]


-Remember how bad this road is?

I couldn't make the left.


I think
there's 18,000 coming out.

It's about -- be about
40 tractor-trailer loads.


Now we go out
and straighten boxes,

straighten covers,
make sure our count's right.

And, uh...

A little more than we did
last year,

but two years ago,we did 64 trailer loads, though.

We're just a little bit of it.

It's the biggest...

annual move of bees

in the world.

We got them in on time...

[ Indistinct talking
in distance ]

...this year.

[ Chuckles ]

Now we can get some sleep.


-Bees are so fascinating.

When you first go
into a beehive,

you are, like, worried
about getting stung,

and then as soon as you
start watching them

and seeing them on the combs,
communicating with each other,

all of the chemical signals

that keep the worker bees
doing the right thing,

it's just so fascinating,
so complex,

and it mostly works

until we get in the way of it.


-Well, most beekeepers,
including ourselves --

now if you're
a commercial beekeeper,

for the most part,
your honey bees are mounted.

The hives are sitting
on pallets --

They're either four hives
on a pallet,

or there are six hives
on a pallet.

And everybody's got forklifts.

You know, all-terrain forklifts,

Bobcats, swingers,

articulated loaders.

Most of all of
our short-distance bee moving

for pollinating apples
and vegetables and so on,

that's all done with
straight trucks and so forth.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

Now we start crisscrossing
the United States,

that's all done with semis.

Most of the public out here

has probably seen loads of bees
going down a road

and didn't even know
what they were looking at.

Just looks like something
covered up with a big net.

Most of the bee moving all
is done at nighttime.

The bees all come home
in the evening,

you know, come in after dusk.

So, we wait till the bees
are all home,

and then we go out there
and load them

and send them
on their merry way.

So, when a semi-truck
gets to its destination,

there'll be a beekeeper there
that's gonna unload that truck

and put them out
in the almond orchard,

the apples, the blueberries,
or what have you.

The farmer, basically, pays us
for bringing the bees in --

depends what the crop is.

You know, almonds in California,

the going rate right now
is anywhere

from $165 to $225 a hive.

And that's for a period of,
you know, five to six weeks

while the almond bloom is.


[ Whirring ]


-Many crops require

pollination by insects,

and because
the native pollinators

who used to be here
are no longer

in large enough quantities
to do that pollination,

the managed honey bees
have stepped in

to take the role of pollinator.

-Pollination is a basic
natural function.

A lot of plants in nature need
insects to transfer pollen,

and one of the most efficient
is the honey bee.

-So, basically, you know,
of all the good stuff we eat,

you know, the vegetables
and the fruits and so on,

most of that needs
honey bee pollination

or pollination
by native pollinators.

-The chemical companies --
they figure we should eat corn,

soybeans, and rice, and that
don't need to be pollinated.

And that's what they think
we ought to live on.

But if you like your fruits
and vegetables and your nuts,

a lot of that stuff
need pollinating.

A lot of wild insects
can do the job,

but not as well as bringing in
a commercial beekeeper

to put down a thousand colonies
in one area

and give a good blast
to the pollination.

-Our business has got
two different ends to it.

One of them is producing honey,
but, of course,

the reason them honey bees
are here in the first place

is to pollinate our crops,
you know,

'cause one out of every
three bites of food

we put in our mouths comes

from honey bee pollination.

-I think
the general public should know

that our food system
is threatened

by the fact that
the bees are in trouble.

And they should care about that
because they eat food.

-So, the problem is that native
pollinators have disappeared

and farming has become
a lot bigger,

and so due to all this,

you know,
now they need beekeepers

that can move bees
from one place to the other.

And, of course, the only bees
that are really movable,

that you could put
on the back of a truck

and truck them
all over the place

is honey bees.

The big pollination in
this country is almonds,

which is in the dead
of the winter.

The almond tree's not very smartin that way,

because blooming in the end
of February, in through March.

So, in California,

now today, there's close
to a million acres of almonds.

It takes two hives of bees
to the acre

to pollinate them almonds.

So these bees got to crisscross

the United States to get there.

Our business, basically --
it's a timing situation,

that orchard
or blueberry grower

or almond grower,
or vegetable grower,

his livelihood is depending
on him growing a crop.

And if that crop
isn't pollinated

when the flowers are in bloom,
we got a short window there.

When he picks up the phone
and calls us --

"In two days, I need bees" --

it's not two weeks,
or two months.

He needs bees in two days.


-Beekeepers are kind of like
the last of the cowboys

you've seen in the Westerns.

We migrate the bees from up
in the northern prairies

all down here
to the Bakersfield area,

and we keep 'em
in the west side of the valley.

When the spring bloom comes,
we'll take the bees,

and we'll spread 'em
from the Turlock area

down to the southern
Bakersfield area.

The almond pollination is

the biggest pollination event
in the U.S. bee industry.

It takes almost the entire
national bee supply.


-And so a semi-truck
will hold somewhere around

400 to 450 hives of bees.

And so you start
thinking about this.

It takes somewhere
in the neighborhood

of two million hives of bees
in California.

Say, you know,

a couple hundred thousand
of them are already there,

maybe 250,000 of them
are already there,

so that means
the rest of those beehives

have to come
from someplace else.

So there's a lot
of truckloads of bees

crisscrossing the United States.

-Our honey bees get
picked up and moved

almost 22 times a year.

And a lot of people think
that this is one of the reasons

why our bees are not surviving
like they used to.

But we've been pollinating
fruits and vegetables and nuts

since the '70s, '60s, '50s,

and we haven't had
these kind of losses.

-You know, it depends on
whose numbers you look at,

but the USDA numbers say

we have somewhere around
2.6 million hives.

And the Bee Informed Partnershipout of Maryland's

been showing -- been losing
30% to 40% of our hives.

So a 30% loss there puts us downto about 1.8 million hives,

and that's about
what the almond industry takes,

so we're almost
at 100% utilization

of the bee supply.

[ Bees buzzing ]

-We rely
on the managed honey bee

for our relatively inexpensive
fruits and vegetables

that we have
in the grocery story,

and this means
that they're in an area

that is treated with pesticides
on a regular basis

and also densely packed

with agricultural crops,

leaving very few wildflowers.

Once the crop has bloomed,

there's nothing there
for the bees to eat.

For example, the almond bloom
in California --

very intense activity
for the bees for about a month,

and then the beekeepers

can't leave their bees
there afterwards

because there's nothing more
for the bees to eat.

The managed honey bee

has the beekeeper
helping them survive

because it's in
everyone's interest

for the bees to survive,

and so they do move their bees

to places that have good forage,

away from threats,

although that's not
always possible.

The native pollinators
are in deep trouble.

They're in trouble because

they can't move away
from agriculture.

We're not monitoring
the populations

as well
as the managed honey bees

but we are seeing
in certain places

that their populations
have plummeted.

One, the rusty patched
bumble bee,

was just listed
as an endangered species

and a lot has to do
with agriculture

and pesticide use,
in particular.

-It's so important
what happens in California

'cause it sets up the table
for the rest of the year,

because right after
the almonds --

Almonds are the earliest crop
in the spring,

and after this,
most of the bees will go either

into a secondary pollination

or into a breeding program
to replace the old queens

and to make up for the
previous year's death losses.

It's really important
on how bees come out here

the Almond Board of California

has done some really good
extension work,

trying to educateall the farmers across the state

on what the best
management practices are

for bee conservation.

But it's kind of sad sometimes,
you know.

A farmer or a rancher
has so many obligations,

he doesn't have time to stay up
with the latest technology

until there's a bad event.


-Bees are important
for all kinds of reasons.

They're important
because we're not capable

of making all kinds of things
grow by ourselves.

It's not some kind of magic,

it's a deep biological process,

of which, bees are a part.

But bees are also
important to us

because they're a very good
kind of sentinel signal

for the trouble that we're in.

There they are every day,
out in the world,

foraging through every corner

of the rural landscape.

If suddenly, one year,
25% of them show up missing,

that means there
is something wrong

with that landscape.

-There's been a pretty dramatic
change in agriculture

over the last 20 years or so

in the types of pesticides
that are being used.

In 1996, Congress passed
the Food Quality Protection Act

that required a reevaluation of
all of the existing pesticides,

and the ones that were
really a big target

because they were so problematicfor worker poisonings

were these nerve toxins
called organophosphates

and carbamate pesticides.

Those have dropped dramatically
in use.

Many of them have been pulled
out of the system altogether.

And what came into replace them
are a group of pesticides

called the neonicotinoids,

and starting in 1994,

the first one
was registered in the U.S.,

and every year,
more and more crops

and more and more acres

are treated with these
types of pesticides.

These are very problematic
for bees,

and while the organophosphates
were highly toxic to bees,

they degraded
relatively quickly.

The neonicotinoids take years

to degrade in the environment,

and what that means is,

you're going to continue
to poison the bees

for many years after you apply
these pesticides.

They're so widely marketed
and so widely used

that they're, really,
everywhere now.

-Neonicotinoids basically work
by breaking down immune system,

cause the insects
to lose their memory,

make them sick.

Whether it's the insect
or it's a human, you know,

your immune system's broke down,you don't want to eat,

and that's exactly
what we got going on

inside these honey bee hives,
and, eventually, you know,

we're going
to somebody's funeral.

-Bees, it turns out,
are very good

at picking up pesticides
in the environment.

It seems like even

the smallest amount
of pesticide,

even if pesticides have
been sprayed months

or even a year or two earlier,

there seems to be residues
in the environment,

and the bees seem
to pick these things up

and actually bring them
back to the hive.

It was shocking
how much pesticide

and the diversity of pesticides
that we were finding --

herbicides, fungicides,
growth regulators,


all of them showed up
in samples that we collected

and looked at
across the country.

It was --
It was disturbing.

Most pesticides are lipophilic,

meaning they want
to dissolve in a fat,

and so pollen

and particularly wax are fats.

Wax, it turns out, is almost
like a fossil record.

The wax combs
that the bees live in,

that they put their food in,
that the brood is produced in,

accumulates and holds onto
these pesticide contaminants,

and so it's very hard
for a beekeeper

who's doing crop pollination
to protect their bees

from pesticides --
very hard.

-The effect of pesticides
on bees of all sorts,

our native species,
as well as honey bees,

has been documented
in North America,

and now it's being documented

And this is a real --
a real concern,

that pesticides seem
to be playing a key role

in the downturn

of our bee populations.

-The fighting man came home.

Families that have been
torn apart were reunited.

-Something changed
after World War II

in America for agriculture.

The advent
of synthetic chemicals

that could be used

to poison insects
was a big one.

-Man fights back.

Modern insecticides
have come into being

as a hoped for poison gas
to stop the enemy.

The stakes are high --

millions of dollars
of valuable foods

stand as the reward.

-And synthetic chemists,

taking chemicals from the paints

and pigments industry
and other industrial uses,

and evaluating those

for their potential use
in agriculture

really accelerated
the development

of synthetic
pesticide production.

Natural molecules

like nicotine and pyrethrum

that have an inherent property
for killing insects,

could those be improved upon?

And the answer was yes,
and without any other regard

about what placing that chemicalin the environment might mean,

short-term or long-term,

at first it seemed like this
was the silver bullet.

There are major differences

between the United States
and Europe and other places,

in a philosophical basis,

by which risks for pesticides
are evaluated,

and in the European Union,
the precautionary principle,

which states that,
if we don't understand fully

the risk of using something,
we should not use it

until we have that
greater understanding.

Whereas in the United States,

the precautionary principle,

we say,
"Well, let's take the risk,

and we'll find out if it's not
working and readjust."

And that's a matter of law
that the EPA's bound by,

but I would really
like to see us

reevaluate that situation
from a policymaking standpoint.

-I mean, nobody's looking
at what damage

we're doing here
to our environment.

Some of the stuff we're using
is a neurotoxin

that's gonna destroy
our health and children

and everything else,
but we're spraying it

'cause somebody has more say
and more power than we do.



-Yesterday, I got a call

from one of the partners
of this ranch,

said, you know,

"Adee, the bees are dying.

Come up here
and figure out why."

And so I jumped in the pickup
and came up here.

And it was very obvious
it was an acute bee kill,

you know, some type
of insecticide or fungicide

or some synergistic reaction
with chemicals around the area

was killing the bees.

They were dying today
as they were looking at them.

The first sets
they were looking at,

we seen bees laying
on the ground.

We found a queen staggering out
in front of a hive.

Anyway, that's what
we want to do,

is find out what's affecting it.

This family spent a lot of moneyfor these bees,

and they're counting on them
for their pollination.

And it would be terrible
to think that they were doing

something that was completely
legal and by the book,

yet it was hurting the bees,

and if a neighbor was being
sloppy and hurting the bees,

that would be really bad, too,

but something's definitely
hurting the bees.

-How many are you here?
-We just finished eight.

-Okay, that's fine.
-Yeah, yeah.

That's fine, good.
-And that'll give you --

That'll give you enough
to compare.

-Yeah, well, when they do
the chemical analysis, I know,

yeah, they'll have enough
to tease out a difference.

Nobody's going to want
to admit that this happened

because, you know,
this man spent

hundreds of thousands of dollarsto rent these bees.

And he has, probably,

millions of dollars worth
of nuts at risk.

And, you know,
the guy down the road

is not going to come up and say,

"Hey, well I put a cocktail
on my apricots

that happened
to kill your bees."

Nobody's going to say
anything like that

because they don't
want the liability.

So, anyway, it's really hard
to track these things down.

You know, this is why we have
to have lab work done.

So, you know,
it can be prevented.

You can't bring the dead
back to life,

but, you know, you can keep
more from getting killed.

It's really important
to have good stewardship

while they're in the almonds

so they're available
for everything else.

This is the crop100% of the bees are exposed to.

How bees leave this crop is
how they start the next crop.

After this,
it will be a real rush

to get the bees
to the apples and the cherries

and after that, the seed crops
across the nation.

You know, if we put
the same economic value

on a honey bee as cattle,
you know, we wouldn't have

a pesticide investigator out
there for this kind of losses.

We'd have the FBI out there.

Honey bees are kind of
thought of as, you know,

oh, well,
they'll just make more.

People talk about
the financial viability

of the bee industry,

but what I think
I'm more concerned with

is the biological viability
of the bee industry.

It's like,
can we divide them fast enough

to make up for the losses?


[ Engine idling ]

[ Hydraulics hiss ]

-Shut that thing off,
make less noise.

Phone here before I lose that.

-How many you putting on?
-46 pallets.

-What's that come out to?
-That's three rows --

That's five rows on top.

Them things are jumpy.

Put three rows of two,and the rest of them will go up.

Warmer tonight
than it was last night.

[ Bees buzzing ]

They're kind of pissy.

What did you do to get them
all pissed off today?

-We took 300 hives out
of here last night.

What do you expect?

[ Engine revs ]

-I'm a lot slower
getting out of here

than I used to be.
[ Chuckles ]

Just throw some straps on them,
down the road.

-Hold on.

-Well, we just loaded
46 pallets of bees,

180-some hives.

We're going to two
apple orchards

out around Martinsburg,

Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania.

Drop these bees off
at the orchard

and come home --
come back home and go to bed

in the wee hours of the morning.

Spring came early this year.

Wasn't supposed to, but it did.

Apples are just roughly
10 days early.

-Neil, the guy we're
going to tonight,

told me he had
some early apples out.

He wasn't really much
worried about them

because he's got quite
a few native pollinators

around there.

[ Bees buzz, birds chirping ]

Farmers, apple growers,
apple growers especially,

are seeing a need to promote,

you know, native pollinators
and, you know,

preserve what they got
in the woods around them.



-Peaches, cherries, apples --

they have to have
so many degrees below 40.

Peaches have less requirement
than apples.

Apples have the most.

Most of them at around
1,000, 1,200 hours

below 40 degrees to bloom.

Once you reach those degrees,
they can come any time.

So, if it's a cold winter,
they already have

the chilling requirement
in by early March,

so as soon as it warms up,

they're ready to move,

and that's what happens.

We're gonna go to another place,and then ten more off,

and that will be all for me.


-If I had a dollar
for every time

I went on and off
that trailer...

I think I did have a dollar

for every time I went on and offthat trailer.

Him and I were just having

this discussion.-We were having that discussion.

-Having this discussion here
the last five minutes.

How long is this thing
going to last?

-Oh, I would say
we'll have them till probably

the end of next week,
at least.

-I think.
-Those are Fuji right there,

and their flowers
are barely open yet.

But I have Empires
just down here,

and they're in full bloom.

Does anybody document where the
wild bees are having trouble?

Or nobody says,
there isn't any wild bees?

-Oh, yeah, there's a guy
at Cornell University

that's done some work.

-I mean, we use as many --
probably more --

We use more chemicals
than dairy.

We don't use as much herbicide
as they do.

You know your salesman
comes around,

and he expects you
to buy something

every time he come around.
-I know.

[ Engine revs in distance ]


-Is it possible to grow fruit

without insecticides
and fungicides?

Well, yeah, it is.

Probably not the fruits
we have today

because, you know, obviously,
my great-grandfather

and great-great-grandfather
were growing fruit,

and they didn't have pesticides.

I don't know
what the yields were,

and I'm sure there were
some disasters.

But, you know,
the consumer today

is so used to a perfect
piece of fruit,

and they can get it year round.

I don't know that they'd want
to go back to the varieties

that were growing,

that are resistant
to insects and diseases.

You know, the consumers
in those days before pesticides

would put up with,
you know, a mark on an apple.

They would just be happy
to have a piece of fruit.

-Fruit growing
without chemicals --

I'd be happy because
it's a major expense for me.

That and labor are
my two biggest expenses.

And if I could cut way back
on my use,

I would tomorrow.

And we don't use any more
than we have to,

but we have to use it

to get the fruit that we want,
that people want to buy.

Varieties that we grow
are Ginger Gold, Gala,

Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious,

Red Delicious, McIntosh,

Fuji, Jonagolds, and Empire.

We start now,
start in spring.

The trees will come out
in the spring

when it warms up,
comes into bloom.

When the blooms starts to open,

we want bees to come in
to pollinate,

'cause if we have --
we need pollination.

We need to move the pollen
to the ovary,

'cause then it grows down,
and that's what forms an apple.

Well, the bees are one
of the most efficient ways

to transfer the pollen
from the flower to flower.

On a typical apple bud,
when it comes open,

there's usually five to six
blooms on that bud.

But there'll be one
that will come out first.

It's called the king flower.

That's the flower that
we would like to set,

'cause that gives
the biggest apple.

If that sets like this one --
I'll just pull this off.

If they all set,
there's five apples --

If they would all set,
there's five apples on there.

And that's more than I want.
I only want one.

So, I have to have
some come off.

We do mostly chemical thinning,

and it'll cause
the fruit to fall off.

We don't do any flower
or blossom thinning,

as they called it.

This will be the --

This here will be
the stem of the apple.

If this develops into an apple,
this would be the stem,

where it's attached,

and this brown part
at the bottom here is

actually the start of the form
of the apple right here.

We have to put on a fungicide,
which is for disease.

Apples get disease.

They get disease on the leaves

then that transfers
onto the fruit.

I know there's
some work being done

that some of the fungicides
are not good for bees.

As far as I know, they're okay.

And then we have insects.

There's a whole list of insects

that attack the trees
and the fruit.

And if we don't control them,
then we have problems.

And there's some insecticides
that you can use

that are safe on bees.

My policy is,
when the bees come,

we don't put any insecticide on.

-I know when I grew up,

the fruit business
was very seasonal.

Strawberries were
in strawberry season,

blueberries were
in blueberry season,

raspberries were in
raspberry season.

You didn't see them
till the next year.

With the worldwide production
and transportation,

you have strawberries,

raspberries, year-round.

You know, you can go
in the chain store

and find these things

and you have such a plethora

of fruits
that we never saw before.

Fruit is much more available
than it was in the past.

So, I think, for that reason,
people don't understand

the seasonality
of local produce.


Sounds good.

Thanks, Kevin.
Talk to you later.


I've been doing this, you know,

consistently for 16 plus years,

and, you know,
you jump out of the truck,

and these bees have been here

less than 24 hours,
sitting here.

And there's quite a few beeson the ground outside the hives,

and it's only 50 degrees or so.

So, it's definitely
an alarming situation

where you see this many,
you know, bees dead

on the ground outside the hives
when it's only 50 degrees.

Bees haven't been flying much

They are flying a little bit,
but this is nothing

compared to what it would be
if it was 70 degrees out.

We probably wouldn't be able
to stand here

without any equipment on.

Sometimes I feel as though
I get numb to it,

and I just -- I'm used to it
'cause it's the way it is now.

But, you know, other times,

I want to sit here
and scoop all these bees up

and send them off to a lab
to get analyzed

and, you know,

find out what's wrong,
what's going on here.

But, you know, in many cases,
like right now, I don't.

Beekeepers are hustling around.

I'm moving this load out

and I got to move
another load in tomorrow

to do the same thing again.

Consistent pollination race,
so to speak.

If you look up close there,
you can see the bees

are pulling out the dead
from inside the hive.

They'll just drop them off
the front of the hive

and leave them out in front.

I just recently found out,

that they're using Sevin
to thin the apples,

which is a highly
toxic pesticide

for bees and all insects.

You know, everybody's wanting
to thin right now,

so as soon as the bees get out,

they start up the sprayers
and and try to thin.

-Things like apples,
where they purposely

only want to set the king bloom,

because they want
to get larger fruit size,

what they've found isthat if they set too much bloom,

they actually have to send
people out to thin them.

And they found that some
of the insecticides,

particularly Sevin or Carbaryl,

can be used --
sprayed on the blossom

to actually cause it
to abort bloom.

And so one of the issues we havearound those types of crops

is actually removing the bees
quick enough

that we don't come in contact

with the thin sprays

later in the bloom.

-Even though this is
a really big orchard,

just the other side of that hillright there is somebody else,

and it looks like,
judging by the tire tracks,

someone was in there
spraying last night.

Every single row had been
gone up and down

in the last 24 hours.

You can see it in the grass.

I'm sure there's a good reason
for it.

It's an effective thinner.
It's what they're using.

But is everybody
communicating enough

with their neighbors
about the bees?

Or is it just,
"Well, my bees are out,

so I'm going to thin"?

You know there's still partial
bloom on some of his trees,

and my bees work those trees.

So, you know,
it's something that --

It's definitely a danger
in pollination,

and we don't quite have answers

as to what to do about it.

One guy doesn't know the other
guy's bees are there,

and next thing you know,
they get dead bees

and an upset beekeeper.

[ Sighs ]

[ Chuckles ]

Never ends.


-Populations of honey bees
are dying at levels

that are unprecedented
and very concerning.

So, we have been seeing
between 33% and close to half

of the colonies in the U.S.
dying every single year,

which is disturbing.

But the numbers of colonies
in the U.S.

have been able to hold steady,

because we then split
the colonies that survive,

and we recoup those losses.

We're doing it
because we have to,

but our hope is that,

we can stop splitting colonies,

which is not a sustainable way
of keeping them,

and get back to a time

where we had acceptable levels
of loss, at 10% or lower.

-One of the things that
they're not really looking at

and not telling you is
that beekeepers have changed

a lot of their management.

Everybody is replacing queens,
you know,

at an unheard of rate.

-So, we're up
at the bee yard here.

We're going to put in
some queen cells

to hives that we split earlier.

And that's what is
in this box here,

it's some attendant worker bees
and a frame --

a couple frames of honey
for feed,

and then we purchase queen cells

from a beekeeping operation
that raises those.

So, what I'll be doing is,
I'll be taking these,

and I'll be installing
one queen cell

per hive that we've split,

and you can see the queen cell.

You can see the bees
working on it.

We'll put the queen cell
in each of the hives.


-I go back to the dayswhen you put a queen in the box,

and she was there for years.

I mean, literally,
three, four years,

and you didn't re-queen
a lot of beehives

because they normally
re-queened themselves.

Now it's a different story.

You re-queen them,
or you got a dead beehive.

A lot of guys are out there,

carrying a hundred queens
with them every day.

You know, maybe they don't
use a hundred a day,

but the next two days, they're
gonna use that hundred up,

and they got another
hundred coming,

you know, sizeable outfits.

-There are about 320 hives
that we're going to assess

which half the queen is in
and confine her

so we know where she is,
and then this evening,

we'll move off those
queen-less halves

so that we can
establish new hives,

put queen cells in them
in the next few days.

[ Bees buzzing ]

-They're keeping the losses
at bay,

but I can remember the days

when I ran 1,500 hives of bees
by myself.

But them days are over.

I mean, there's just
so much management.

We ran bees on
a let-alone system.

I mean the more
you left them alone,

the more honey they made.

Now if you leave them alone,
they're dead.

I mean, you got to --
You just basically got to be

in them things
about every two weeks.

You know,
if queens are starting to fail,

then we pop a new queen
in there,

or you got an empty box.

[ Bees buzzing ]

-We start a new hive

by combining the frames of brood

from several different colonies.

Bring your camera in quick here.

There's a Varroa mite
on that drone larva.

Red, orange fleck there
on the larva here is

a Varroa mite.

They were accidentally imported.

-Varroa destructor is public
enemy number one, by far.

It was a parasite
in Southeast Asia,

and around the 1960s,

it started making the spread
around the world.

Now it's present pretty much
everywhere honey bees are kept.

-It's a small, little mite

that if you compared it
to the size of a human being,

a 150-pound human being,

it would be like having a tick
the size of your fist.

So, it's a huge parasite
relative to the bee's body.

And it, literally, just pokes

right through the body wall
of the bee

and feeds on it,
both the adult bee

and the developing bee,
in the larval and pupal stage.

-Mites carry viruses.

They transmit viruses,

and they also, we know,
suppress the immune system.

So, it's like a double whammy
for the bees.

-You can kind of imagine it
as a triangle.

There are parasites
at the top of this triangle,

pesticides, and poor nutrition.

There's a lot going on.

But it seems like they're all
related to each other.

-Most bee populations can deal
with one of these issues,

but they can't deal with
multiple ones at the same time.

Example of this is
the interaction of Varroa mites

and pesticides and viruses.

-The mites are parasites
that weaken the bees.

They weaken the bees

and make them more susceptible
to pesticides.

The pesticides further
weaken the bees.

They reduce the population,

the number of bees
that are in the colony,

and that gives you
a lower force of bees

to actually go out
and retrieve food.

-So, you have this sort of
feedback loop where, you know,

if you have high pesticides,
virus titers can go higher,

Varroa populations
can go higher,

which can transmit more virus,

and then you can
get into the cycle

that your bees are
unable to cope with.

-The big problem
with the mite is...

how do you get rid
of a bug on a bug?

We think we've put a chemical
in there to treat the mite,

and we're going
to kill the mites.

Well, a lot of times --
sometimes, it works,

and sometimes it don't,
and that's where

you get yourself
into deep trouble,

because you either
treat for the mites,

or the mites put you
out of business.

It's just as simple as that.

-You know,
it's one straw too many.

You got mites.
You got virus.

You got, you know,
poor nutrition,

and then you have

pesticide exposure
on top of that.

It's more than we should expect
of any organism to survive.

-What is happening
with bees right now

is not colony collapse disorder

that we saw over a three
to five year period.

Rapid loss of bees
from a colony,

and the brood's left behind

and usually the queen
is left behind.

That's CCD.

-You know so many people are
so focused on CCD, CCD, CCD.

CCD is a small,
little manifestation

of this whole
pollinator decline.

It much more rare

than it was during those
initial few years --

2005, 2006, 2007, 2008.

It's really not
what's important.

-Everyone uses this CCD to mean
whenever a colony dies.

We're seeing colonies die
for a lot of reasons now.


-Wild blueberries are growin'.

Only grow here in Maine
and Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island,
New Brunswick, and Quebec.

Annual event.

Been doing this
for 30-something years

for this company.

So the bees are being brought inin the middle of May.

They'll be here until
early, mid-June --

somewhere around the 10th,
12th, 14th of June.

The blueberries
will be done blooming,

and they'll get them out of here

and take them
on over to New York

or wherever they've got to go
to produce honey

for the rest of the summer.

This load came out of Florida.
There's 396 hives on here.

We're gonna put these out
in three or four yards

this morning.

The black flies are bad.

We're effected by commodity
pricing everywhere --

almonds, apples, you know,
blueberries, everything.

You know, if they
ain't making any money,

they can't afford to pay us
or don't want to.

It's just the way life is.

You got a wrecking bar?

-It's on the nose
of the trailer.

-Oh, okay.
I'm trying to find --

Somebody must of took one
out of this truck.

-But blueberries prices
are down,

and it's costing more to producethe blueberries

than they're worth.

So, you know...

it's economics.

Well, I guess we won't
get it off quick.

-Yeah, last night,
two tractor trailers came in,

both of them were
Dave Hackenberg's bees.

We put about
a third of them out.

This morning,
we put another third out.

Tonight we'll finish
that load --

those two loads up.

This road didn't get any better
since last year, either.

[ Engine revs ]

I'll let you put
the other one here.

[ Chuckles ]

-[ Indistinct talking]

-Yeah, the other one
will go in a big hole.


-There's no place
to turn around.

It's nothing but a rock pile.

You got to fix the fence --
His fence is there.

I got to put his fence up.

I got put the bees in the fence,

and I've got to get the fence
closed up.

[ Cellphone rings ]

Ah, I don't want to talk to you.

-He sits by the windows,

'cause it's the only place
in here he gets cell service.

-I start out to put bees
in the first yard,

and there's spraying rigs
in the first yard.

And where I wanted
to unload the truck,

there was a hole.

They were filling spray tanks

and had their tractor trailer

and all their spray rigs
sitting in there.

Them pancakes sure ain't mine,

'cause I know better than
to eat pancakes here.

-[ Laughs ] You'll be full
for the rest of the day.

-I can't handle
that much pancake.

-Did you have guys have
less bees this year brought up?

That's, like, the rumor
that's been going on,

so I was wondering.
-Yeah, it's not a rumor.

-So, cause I know --
-They cleared way back.

-So, how much did they
cut you guys for?

-They didn't cut us,
but, I mean, they cut --

They got rid of just --

Let a bunch of people go.
-'Cause I know a lot of people

have been worried about, like,blueberry prices and everything.

-Oh, yes.



-OSHA don't want to see that!

Go right out the road here,

until you turn left,
and then make that first right.


[ Rooster crows ]

-We can learn a good deal
from bees

about the health of
the landscapes that we inhabit.

And sort of secondarily,
we can learn a good deal

about the folly
of setting up our agriculture

in quite the way that we have.

It looked so efficient

and concentrate everything
in the ways that we've done it,

but that turns out to be
a false efficiency.

It is the cheapest way

to produce pork or corn
or whatever else,

but that cheapness
comes at a high price,

and that price is the loss
of the agricultural diversity,

redundancy, resiliency,

that is really beyond price.

You know it's the thing
that we've built up

over 10,000 years
of agriculture,

and now in a kind of
hundred years

of industrialization,

we've managed to get rid
of most of it.

-The Industrial Revolution
in the early 1900s was founded

to take people off the land,

bring them into cities
and into places

where there were
other kinds of jobs

that could be more profitable
for them.

We had more than enough people

to grow the food
that was necessary.

And so the emphasis
in agriculture

was totally focused
on increasing

the productivity
of crop production

and animal production
of the individual farm level.

And we've made great strides
in doing that.

And as a consequence,
fewer and fewer individuals

are engaged in farming
because fewer individuals

can farm larger
and larger operations,

whether that's a milking herd
of a 100 cows,

or farming 300 or 400 acres
of crops.

We've evolved a system

that's efficient
from use of land

in terms of amount of food
that can be produced on it,

but it's not
a sustainable system.

It's not healthy for the soil.

It's not healthy for the productthat's produced

in terms of its nutrition
or other properties,

and it's not healthy
for the environment as a whole.

-Well, we went down a road
with agriculture, didn't we?

And that road said

that the only way to be
a successful farmer

was to have clean fields

and control --

in control of your land, right?

If you had weeds

or if you had something
out of place,

you were a bad farmer,

and the easiest way
to maintain that --

As that perception
started to increase,

the food production system
became simpler

and simpler and simpler.

And the only way to maintain
a simplified system

is with more and more jugs,
you know?

Maybe it's fertilizers,
maybe it's GM plants,

maybe it's herbicides,

maybe it's insecticides,

Simplify it.
Control it, right?

And that seems to have
worked for a long time,

but the cracks
are really showing through

in the ice right now.

Everything within
the current infrastructure

is hell-bent on making
the system work,

rather than questioning,

should we have ever gone down
this road to begin with?

-In the year 2000,

the only corn you saw
in eastern North Dakota

was silage corn,

and there were a few
soybean fields,

but not very many.

And in 2006,
George Bush gave a talk,

and he mentioned something
called biofuels. [ Chuckles ]

And as soon as that happened,

the renewable fuel standard
was created.

We saw massive changes
here in North Dakota.

Now the two predominant crops
are corn and soybeans

and we have lost many,
many opportunities

for producing honey
due to those changes.

A lot of the grassland,a lot of the conservation acres,

a lot of the more
traditional crops

have all been replacedwith acres of corn and soybeans.

-When we were looking at mappingaround apiaries in North Dakota,

we were looking at the amount
of grasslands

and natural areas and stuff.

And as those grasslands
and all disappeared

and turned into crops,
like corn and soybeans,

there's very little fencerows
or hedgerows at all.

So you've got corn and soybeans
that bloom, you know,

one time during the year.

Very little other forage
out there.

And plus, you've got
the pesticide exposure

that comes with agriculture.


-A lot of them grasslands
have not had anything

planted on it
for hundreds of years

and, all of a sudden,
we have corn in areas

that shouldn't have corn
because of ethanol.

And if they stop
planting corn today,

it's going to take 20
to 30 years for that ground

to get back in the shape it was

to sustain life for all
these wild insects,

birds, and fowl,
and everything else.

So we're not doing ourselves
any good.

-Agriculture, you know,

is an interruption
of a natural system.

But it can be done thoughtfully
as an interruption

of a natural system
with great benefits.

From what I've studied
and what I've learned

from visits to these farms

that are forced
into monoculture --

I just want to be careful
that we talk about farmers

that are driven to want to farm
in monocultures.

There aren't a lot
that I've met.

We have a system
that's teetering.

It's hard to recognize that

because the supermarket shelves
are filled.

The instability is there
because of our food choices.

Not because of some evil empire

trying to destabilize
our breadbasket to the world.

If anything,
it's because we have demanded

an alarmingly small diversity
of grains mostly that feed us,

and that's pushed
the food system that we have

into the place it's in.

So, it's a reflection of us.

-Crop rotation is just
really moving plants around

to different areas.

Rotation in general

is a really important concept
in nature.

It reduces the potential
of accumulated pathogens.

It exercises the soil

to really draw different things
out of it,

because every plant species
has a different need

that it's taking from the soil.

Kind of moving through sort of
a procession of plants.

You're balancing the soil
and working with that system.

That's not the case
with corn and soy.

It's our choice

to have transposed
this grass crop,

as corn or soybean crop,

on top of what really wants

to be a perennial grassland.

If we could really look close
at the Plains,

we would see huge shifts
in species.

And not just the animalsmoving across in the way they do

but the grasses changing,
one species to another,

over long periods of time.

What made the Great Plains
is that movement and change.

We have some of the most
beautiful soil on this planet

in the Midwest of our country

and we're just chipping it away
with corn and soy.

We're not generating
something new.

There's more that could be addedwith the corn and soy.

-We've lived in
the Garden of Eden.

We came to a place
that had virgin soils

and has temperate climate
that have resulted

in an over-abundance of food
from the beginning.

And when the soils were depletedon the East Coast,

we plowed up the Midwest

and became very rich
off of that.

And when those soils
were depleted and distraught,

we moved west.

Manifest Destiny
is about chasing

virgin soil and yields,

and we have come to the end
of the line, of course,

only just recently.

And so the question now
is a real inflection point

of a fork in the road --

Do you put the pedal
to the metal

and try and increase the yields?

You think about
how we produce food

in a completely different way,
and if we do,

then we have to change
the whole food culture.

We really have
to create a system,

a pattern of eating
that supports

the kind of diversity
that the landscape

needs to be healthy.

We don't have that.

-Think about a place
like the Dakotas,

which used to be a diverse
agricultural landscape

and actually perfect for bees,
in that part of their cycle,

you know, far north.

We've turned it into
a agricultural monoculture.

And we've interspersed
that monoculture

with thousands of oil wells,

as we have fracked apart
the Bakken shale.

It's a pretty remarkable

industrial landscape now.

And it's not very friendly
to people,

at least the people
who'd been there

for many thousands of years,

who have tried their best
to stand up against things

like the Dakota Access Pipeline.

And it's not very friendly
to wild nature,

including the pollinators.

We have this idea
of the American west

as this great untamed
natural place,

but, in fact,
outside of the national parks,

it's been about
as industrialized

as it's possible to get.


-The bees are dying right now.

They're not the only things
that are dying.

I mean, we're also losing birds,bats, butterflies.

Entire habitats we're losing.

This is one of the worst
mass extinction events

the planet Earth has ever seen.

So, what are they facing
right now?

It's the same thing
that we're all facing.

Pollution in the environment,

a simplified
agricultural system,

a simplified landscape
where they can't find food.

Suddenly, you've got starving,poisoned bees, and guess what --

They get sick.

So, what do I see when I see
this simplified system?

I see farmers that are ready
to make a change,

but don't have --

They're not hearing any voices
telling them

what this is
supposed to look like

or how to get it done.

And we can start that.

It's already started.

It's already started.

We know what we have to do.

It's just a matter
of getting it done.


-We got corn, soybeans,
and small grains.

We got some rye.
We're growing some canola.

That's up along
the hill up here.

It's about two years old.

We're also growing
some yellow field peas.

So, we got a diverse mix
of some things,

but we're just not
your standard farmers.

Last probably six, seven years,
we've been farming

a little bit different
than mainstream agriculture.

We've been trying
to solve some problems

we're seeing on some
of our farms

and bring it full circle

and bring it
into modern agriculture

and not just be satisfied

with status quo, I guess.

A lot of things are

That's why, I think,
a lot of farmers

don't recognize bees
as an important issue.

Because, well, what do I need
to worry about bees for?

The rye pollinates itself.

The corn pollinates itself.

Farmers need to realize,
is that the bees are,

like, one of the first
line of defense

of why they're disappearing.

If the bees are disappearing,

what else has
disappeared already,

because we don't count
anything else.

And I think that's --
that's kind of the canary

in the mine shaft.

Opened our eyes up
to pay attention

to what's going on the fields.

And people don't think

about how pollination
is important but it's --

Without pollination, we wouldn'thave nothing but a stalk here.


Traditional farming guys
have a breakeven on --

They need the yields so much,

because I need to get
a hundred bushel of corn

to sell for "X" amount
of dollars

to pay for my input costs,
to breakeven.

Anything above that's good --
that's the money you make.

But everybody gets focused
on the yield, yield, yield.

We need more yield
to make money.

And it's -- In my book,
it's not all about yield.

It's about being profitable
on the front side

with keeping your costs at bay.

Most farmers would
be freaking out

by this crop
that's standing here,

and I'm just tickled to death
that it's still here yet.

This rye is going to lay down

and create a mat
on top of the surface.

It's going to create
a habitat for insects.

But it takes some management.

And the problem is,
is this isn't simple.

This isn't --
This is outside the box,

and farmers want
to be in the box.

They want to buy it in the jug.

They want to buy it in the bag.

I don't want to buy it
in the bag or a jug

because that all costs me money.

Yes, cover crop seed
costs me money,

but it's about learning
how to work with nature

and allowing our plants
to work for us.

-This was a soybean field
last year.

And soon as the soybeans
come off,

we get right on it with a drill

and plant the cover crop.

And it's the multispecies,

They call it multispecies.

It's crimson clover, the vetch,

the sweet peas, the rye.

He's got as much as seven
and eight different varieties.

He's just he's always
trying something.

Here we got vetch,

the purple flowers

and then crimson clover.

Right here is the vetch,
lays down.

They're all
the natural fertilizers.

This is before...

with everything up there,
and this is the after.

And, the only thing

that disturbs this soil
is the planter disk.

And this is the only place
where it's worked up.

And that's just perfect.


-Come to the realization
that soil isn't dirt,

and that soil is a living,
growing, thriving thing.

And just as you commented
on why soil is so important

to the bee population
and bee health,

it's also important
to human health, also,

and that is something I think
is hugely overlooked.

-We're trying.

You know, we're trying
to help the environment.

I mean, we're doing
all we can do

to do our share to save soils,

cut down on sprays,

just trying to help
the environment, you know.

-So what we have here is kind ofa juxtaposition of contrast.

We've got what agriculture says,you know,

is a well-managed farm over here

and what I say is
well managed farm over here,

as far as the diversity
and stuff like that.

But this is soil from
a heavily tilled field, right?

[ Thudding ]
That's hard.

Imagine if you were a raindrop,
and you were falling,

none of that water
gets into the soil.

All of it just bounces off
and then runs away, right?

Carrying, often times, a lot
of your top soil with it.

I mean, when you --
[ Sniffs ]

When you smell it,
there's not a lot there, right?

You break it up
and what happens?

It plates off.

It plates.
Look at that.

because there's nothing
growing in there.

There's very little
organic matter, okay.

Breaking it up --
I don't see any worms.

I don't see any ants, nothing.

So, now let's take a look
at what we've got over here

in our regenerative soil.

Now look at this.
Look at this.


That is a healthy soil.

It crumbles.

That is a healthy soil.

You want to know the answer
to your bee problem is?

Right there.

This is the answer
to the bee problem.

If we got this on most
of America's soils again,

your bees would stop dying.


-Well, we're sitting
25 miles from New York City

in the middle of a working farm
and education center

that explores the intersection
between animal, vegetable,

and grain agriculture
and the dining table,

the community around food,

and how do we promote
good agriculture

and how do we talk about it

and inspire others
to do this kind of system

in other regions
of the country and the world?

-We want to generate health
in this space,

first with the soil
and the environment around it,

and that all areas,
not just the production,

are really our focus.

We recognize
the value of habitat

and the value of buffer
and diversity and rotation

and soil health

as sort of components
to long-term sustainability.

In the face of climate change,

these systems are
much more resilient.

Protecting the land around us,

protecting the soil under us
is really our obligation,

and from that, we get delicious,

nourishing products.

-Diversity is useful

because nature

is complicated.

Evolution has produced

an enormously intricate

and interesting world around us

with billions of niches

filled by different creatures
doing different things.

And the human effort
to simplify, basically,

is an effort of pulling out

as many of those pieces
as you can

and seeing what
you can get away with.

-When I look out and I see,

you know,
simplified agriculture,

I see an opportunity, I guess.

You know, 5% of the terrestrial
land surface of the country

right now is corn.

It's not 5% of the crop land.
5% of the land.

One plant species.

It's all maintained
with chemical fertilizers,

most of it's
genetically modified,

almost all of it is
treated with glyphosate,

almost all of it is treated withneonicotinoid seed treatments.

One corn seed has enough
neonicotinoid seed treatment

on it to kill tens
of thousands of bees.

There is a real sense
of urgency right now.

Climates are shifting because ofhow we're producing our foods.

is rampant right now

because of how
we're producing our food.

That also gives us
an opportunity,

a large scale opportunity,

because our food production
system is so extensive,

to solve these
planetary scale problems.


-The strip we're standing on is
actually a pollinator strip.

The farmer that
I rent this from,

he grows pumpkins
and sweet corn,

and the last three, four years,

his goal and my goal
is create habitat

for beneficial
insects and the bees.

Part of the field,
it doesn't get sprayed,

just to start working
with nature a little bit

and help them out
a little bit.

He takes pumpkins
to local produce over here,

and they want to know
how much time he spends

washing his pumpkins,
and he said,

"I don't wash my pumpkins
hardly anymore

because they're all clean.

They lay on top of this rye."

And they said,
"Well, you're full of mud.

You can't no-till pumpkins,"

and he's like,
"Well, come to my farm."

-What we've got here is --

this is going to be
a pumpkin field.

So, about a month ago,
we came in,

and we planted an early
pollinator strip,

which was buckwheat and mustard,

and the idea is to try to get
that established quickly

so that when you know,

we do start
to plant pumpkins in here,

that there already
will be something existing

to attract
our beneficial insects.

The idea to that is then
that we will have something

blooming the entire time
that the pumpkins are growing.

So, another tactic, if you
want to put it that way,

we tried this year was...

Now, we did this
about 10 days ago,

where we came in,
and we planted a row

of Blue Hubbard squash.

I've been told by numerous
seed companies

and also other producers

that Blue Hubbard squash attractthe cucumber beetles

particularly more
than they will attract

to regular pumpkin plants.

The idea is, it creates a trap
for these bugs to come to.

So, I pulled back the rye here

that was the cover crop
in this field,

and this is one of the
Blue Hubbard plants right here.

You can see how it's chewed.

Now, the cucumber beetles
you're not seeing right now

because they're very shy.

As soon as they hear
or see something,

they take off
and hide in the residue,

which you can see here, as well,which feeds our biologics

and our critters that live
in our soils here.

But there you can see
what we got,

and they're just chewing
the bejeepers out of this row,

and if we go over here...'s a row
that's 6 feet away from it,

and this isn't just one
that I picked out.

They're in a row here,
every 4 feet.

You can see that this plant
is green and lush

and no insect damage on it,

There's another one
and right on down the row.

This is not the results
I expected to see this early.

I really didn't expect
to see this till later

when there was
actual flowers on them

and there'd be more pollen there

and that pollen I believe
is more attracted --

the cucumber beetles are more
attracted to that type pollen.

So, it has just really been

and, like I said, we're in the
very beginning stages of this,

but man, it's got me
fired up right now.

So, we're excited.

What we're going to do is,

we're going to use
our little hand sprayer

and we're only going
to spray this row.

If we can keep them
contained to one area

and not have
to spray insecticide

over the entire field,

which, you know,
most of the insecticides,

when you spray it,
you kill everything,

and we don't want to do that.

[ Sheep bleat ]

-Regenerative farming,
number one,

it's the future
of our food production system.

I don't see any other way
around it.

The principles seem
to be consistent.

Do not disturb the soil.

Tillage was one
of our biggest follies.

Number two, there should always
be a living root in that soil.

Number three is,
some diversity of plants

is better than none,

and more is better than less.

And then the final principle
that seems to be unifying

in all of these different
regenerative farms

is integrating crops
and livestock production.

We separated them, didn't we?

We partitioned those things,

so now we ship our grain
from our cornfield

over to a feed lot

and shove it down
a cow's throat,

and then we have
to pump the manure

back over onto the crop ground,

and that's like,
what on Earth happened here?

When, really,
all the cows want to do

is just eat grass
to begin with.

-It's also an opportunity
where everybody wins.

The farmers win.
The beekeepers win.

Rural communities
are regenerated.

Natural resources are rebuilt.

When these farmers
start to adopt

these really
innovative practices,

then they become
the mouthpieces.

They have so much
more credibility

than a scientist does
with their neighbors.

You know,
there's a relationship there,

and there's a trust there

and seeing is believing.

-20 years from now, cover crops

and that regenerative farming
will be the norm.

I think we've probably hit
the worst spot for bees,

and we're on the mend now.

It hasn't had a lot
of acceptance,

but there's cutting edge guys
in every community

that are starting to do this
and experiment.

And, you know,
more than policy,

what gets buy-in is new pickups.

So, when they're successful,

their neighbors will notice it,
and anyway,

then that word will spread
like wildflower,

'cause even faster than policy,
new pickups. [ Chuckles ]

That's what spreads techniques.


-We probably ought to talk
a little bit about EPA,

'cause, you know,
EPA, in my opinion,

has been co-opted by the people

they're supposed to regulate.

-[ Sighs ]

EPA should be taking care of,
protecting our environment.

I call them the CPA.

They're chemical
protection agency.

I've talked to people from EPA
in bee meetings already

about just, like,
this corn deal.

They know planting this corn.
They've tested the dust.

They know how bad
this chemical issue is

coming off the corn,
but when you talk to them,

the first thing out
of the guy's mouth is,

"What do you want me to do,
tell the farmer he can't use

his new $150,000
piece of equipment?"

And that my thing was,
what does it matter to you?

You're the EPA,

the Environmental
Protection Agency.

Your job is protecting
the environment at all cost.

It doesn't matter what
that farmer paid

for that piece of machinery.

It doesn't matter what
the chemical company paid

to put that chemical
on the market.

Your job is protecting
the environment.

-EPA doesn't do much
original science,

certainly not
the regulatory branches,

like the Office
of Pesticide Programs.

The Office of Research
and Development does,

but they don't
regulate anything.

The Office of Pesticide Programshas people who review studies

that are done by, typically,

chemical manufacturers,

or consulting companies that
they hire to do these studies.

Guidelines for studies
on honey bees

are not very well developed yet,

and just in the last few years

do they even have
some guidelines.

And I would say there's
only been probably

three or four real studies done

that look at the bees
in their environment,

instead of in the lab.

-I think there's infighting
sometimes in the EPA.

And some are looking out
for the money stream

to the political appointees
who, you know,

answer to different politicians
that want donations,

and then others
are very concerned

with science and policy

and making sure
we get good science,

and I think there's sometimes
an internal fight,

and we, as citizens
and taxpayers,

don't get the best results
when those internal fights

are happening.

-Rules got changed at EPA.

Instead of registering a product

and making sure
this product's okay,

we come up with a new thingcalled conditional registration.

Here's the packet.

We did the research.

We want a conditional

The rules read that,

after this product's out there,

EPA has to review it,

and it can only be there so longwith conditional registration.

And it just go on
like that for years.

Nobody ever does
any more about it.

-Sometimes, you look and think,

"Well, is there a great cabal?"

[ Chuckling ] And I don't know
if there is or not,

but it does look like
a lot of times,

you have what's called,
I guess in political science,

"the captured client,"

where the regulated ends up

controlling the regulator.

And it's the idea that
a registrant that wants --

or a manufacturer,

that's a nice name for
a manufacturer of a product --

wants to bring a product
to the market,

so he'll write up the test

and show the EPA
the test he wants to do

to test the product
for its environmental impact.

Then they'll give him the nod,
"Yeah, this is a good test."

Then he'll go test it,

and he'll generate
all the results himself,

and then he'll give the results

back to the EPA for evaluation.

So, you know, given that model,

I think there's not
a single person

that couldn't be
a Harvard scholar.

It's like,
I get to write my own test,

I get to take my own test,

and I get to turn
the results in.

I know it came about
on Libertarian ideas --

the person that benefits
from the product

should pay for the process,

but it's like giving yourself
a speeding ticket.

It's just not gonna happen.
[ Chuckles ]

-You know, over the years,
I've been to the EPA

on many, many occasions,
and, of course,

that's the chief toxicologist

for Bayer Crop Science,

I meet him
walking down the street.

We're a block from the EPA.

We walk in the door,

walk through security,

send our stuff through security,stand there in the lobby,

having to still finishing
our conversation.

The gentleman coming to get me,
because somebody

has to come down from upstairs
to get me, gets me.

But while we're standing there
having a conversation

with the EPA fellow,
the Bayer Crop Science guy

gets on the elevator by himself
and disappears.

I said to my friend
from the EPA,

I said,
"Oh, how does that work?"

His answer was,
"Well, they're like the angels,

They come through
the third story window."

So one of the problems
we got here is,

we got too many people
who know too many people,

And if you go to EPA,

it don't take you long
to figure it out,

who worked for who,

or they leave EPA

and go get a very good job

or position at one
of these companies.

As a taxpayer,

do I feel confident
that they're protecting me?

No, they're not protecting me
because they're basically

taking money
from the chemical company

for registration
to do the paperwork.

And that's how it all works.

You know, they're paying EPA.

-There's tremendous money
invested in the current system,

and that money funds
campaign contributions.

Those campaign contributions
then influence

what senators and congressmen
ultimately vote for,

and if you are jeopardizing
those contributions,

then, suddenly, your federal
agency's budget gets cut.

-Good friend of mine
at EPA says,

"Every time I go into a meeting
and start raising Cain

about something,
I'm told to shut up.

Just remember,
if they're not around,

you ain't going to have a job."

You know, it's just that simple.

-The USDA, the FDA, the EPA --

I mean, they're all
government employees,

and I think
there's a solidarity in that,

but the reality is that,
no, they don't really --

In my experience,
I didn't feel like they were --

they were working together
for a common goal.

And especially
the EPA and the USDA.

I mean, the USDA's job
is to support agriculture.

The EPA's job is to protect
the environment, right?

And so when agriculture
destroys the environment,

then what happens, you know?

You would think that there wouldbe a common mind on this,

but the reality is, no,
at least not in my experience.

-My naiveness that this thing
was going to be fixed in,

you know a matter of time,

that's, you know...

It'll probably never happen
in my lifetime.

I think the only way
it ever gets fixed

is if the farmers themselves
fix it.


[ Bees buzzing ]


-After the almond pollination,

we took a projectof re-queening all of our hives.

So, just because

of the environmental stresses
on bees nowadays,

we re-queen every hive
every year.

Concurrent to that, I had
a part of my men take bees up

and pollinate apples
and cherries in Washington,

and then we brought
those bees back down.

And then after that,
we began

the spring and summer
honey season.

-Out here with the bees.

Sweet honey,
and we are treating them,

putting some powder patties
on them.

Keep them healthy.

-Smoke makes the bees
very mellow.

The bees think that
there's a forest fire coming,

so they start gorging themselveswith honey,

and it makes them really docile.

We put bees on the citrus
to make citrus honey.

Then we started bringing bees
back here

to make our wildflower,
our clover, and alfalfa honey.

And in June, we're finished
spreading them out

across the prairie here

and putting on extra boxes
for honey.

And in July,
we let the bees do their work

and try and fill up those boxes.

-Well, we've been everywhere.

Bees were in California,

and then they came back
to Georgia and South Carolina,

and then they came back up
to Pennsylvania --

pollinated apples

in Pennsylvania,
here in southern PA,

and now the western part
of the state.

And from there,
a large portion of them

went to Maine
to pollinate blueberries.

I'm leaving a day
and a half here,

give or take,
to go back up there

and spend the next week
rounding them up

and sending them
to Davey in New York

to use them to make honey
and make more bees.

-This time a year,

we're beginning harvest
full throttle,

because we want to have
everything harvested

by the middle of September

and we'll ship themto the West Coast for the winter

before the prairies become
really cold and unbearable.

First step in the harvest

is taking the honey
away from the bees.

And then we'll heat it up,

and our first machine will take
these little wax caps off.

Just a very thin layer of wax.

The bees put this cap on
when they get it dry enough

so it won't spoil.

When it gets down
below 18.5% moisture,

it becomes so dry
that it can't ferment.

And so they put the cap on
to keep it

from re-absorbing moisture.

And then we'll put it
in a centrifuge.

It will spin the frame,
and that will throw it out,

and we'll sell that honey
to a packing house.

And then you can enjoy
the same thing I'm enjoying.

If it was any fresher,
you'd have to be a bee.

[ Whirring ]

-Well, we're getting ready
to move south for the winter.

It's time.
The cold weather is coming.

It's just that time
of the season,

it's a vicious cycle,
as I call it.

When the seasons change,

the bees need to go
with the seasons.

[ Engines idling ]
[ Indistinct conversation ]



-When I sit next to someone
in a plane

and they hear
that I'm involved with bees,

almost invariably they know
there are problems with bees,

and they want to know
what are the problems

and why is that important.

And, you know,
the problems are many.

We're working hard
to understand them.

And the importance is
that our food system

is dependent upon their role
as pollinators.

One of every three bites of food

is a result
of insect pollination,

and that's something
we don't want to give up.

-We ourselves have become users,consumers of pesticide.

You can see that very easily
when you go to Walmart,

or you go to Lowe's,
you go to Home Depot,

and the shelves are
lined with pesticides,

and particularly herbicides.

You know, you think, well,
herbicides aren't toxic,

but herbicides are completely,
in many places,

eliminating the forage
that bees require.

Bees require flowers.

They require nectar
and pollen-producing flowers.

And this widespread use
of herbicide,

not only in agriculture
but also by homeowners...

Everybody wants
a magnificent green lawn

without a single dandelion
or clover plant in that lawn

or a blooming flower
in that lawn.

That's a food desert for bees.

If you want a green lawn, great.

You know,
let your front yard be green

and allow the backyard to have
some dandelions and clover

and grow a pollinator garden.

Herbicides, fungicides
and insecticides --

all three of those categories

are problematic for our bees.

And, again,
it's not just honey bees.

It's all of our bee species.

-So, consumers may be curious
as to how they can figure out

whether a pesticide product
may hurt bees or not,

and I would avoid
anything systemic.

You could also avoid pesticides
altogether. [ Laughs ]

That's probably the best way.

There may be situations where
you find it really important,

that you have a particular tree
that you want to save,

in which case,
using pesticides

that are approved for use
in organic systems

are generally much less toxic,

and they won't be as persistent,for sure,

as the conventional pesticides.

-The dream of having agriculturewithout pesticides

is not a completely
unrealistic dream.

But it means that science

would have to understand
the complexity of biology

far more than we do now.

What the field
of chemical ecology

tells us or gives us hope
is that if we understand

the true complexities
of the system,

we may be able to use
those complexities

in a way that benefits us
and is more sustainable

than if we try to come in

and overpower the system

with an external chemical
that doesn't belong there.

-Beekeeping has changed a lot
in the last 10 years.

In urban areas, in cities,

people keeping bees on rooftops,

keeping them on their balconies.

-It seems backwards to say

honey bees do well
in urban areas,

but there's not
as much natural forage

as there used to be,
so in cities,

there's all these buffer zones,

and people like
to plant colorful gardens,

so there is more natural forage.

-Research is helping us
to better understand

what habitat we need to create,

and we're working right here
with the USGS

in order to better understand

which of these flowers
the bees are using,

when they're using them

and what it's going to do
for the hives,

and that is going to be used
to generate better recipes

for pollinator habitat

and conservation initiatives
and policy.

-I think the bees provide,
you know, sort of this window

into the natural world that
people are very excited about,

and they want to support this
as best as they can.

And then that trickles
down into, you know,

this renewed interest
and understanding

where our food comes from.

-When I started this job,
you know,

it was basically older men
who were keeping bees,

even at the, you know,
backyard level.

And they were desperate
for more young people

to get into beekeeping.

They weren't so vocal
about women,

about wanting to have women
[chuckling] come in

to the beekeeping arena,
but there are now.

And there are a lot
of young people,

a lot of new people,
and it's very interesting.

The older beekeepers
are a bit flummoxed,

because they don't
know how to deal

with all these young people
with new ideas

and, you know, new approaches
and the Internet

and where they're getting
their information.

So it's been a very interesting

to see how things have changed.

-The success of what's happening
with honey bees is education.

It's going out in your community

and talking to people
about bees, about farming,

bringing a beehive
to your child's school.

You're seeing more
female beekeepers.

You're seeing
younger beekeepers.

You're seeing kids taking
the beekeeping course

'cause they read about the bees
or they're learned,

and they want to help.

They want to be a beekeeper.

-The U.S. beekeeping industry

and the U.S. production
agriculture, I think,

would not have survived
the last 10 years

if it hadn't been for
the hard work of beekeepers.

Just dedicated to beekeeping

and replacing dead colonies
and stuff.

And so that's all come
at a cost to them,

usually personally,
you know, in lost time

and money and things like that,

And a lot of people
don't recognize that.

So, I think the U.S. beekeepers
have to be applauded

for staying in there
when the losses were so high,

otherwise they could
have cut and run

and just gotten out
of the business,

but they didn't.

They stayed in there,
and most of them

have found ways to be
a bit more productive.

Not as productive
as they were in the past.

But we're still facing
some uphill battles

in just trying
to manage good bees

and keep them healthy.

-European Union-wide,
there is a moratorium on use

of neonicotinoid insecticides
on bee-attractive crops.

So any legislation like that
that comes up,

the average person
can make a difference

by letting their legislator know

that they want them
to help protect bees,

and that that is a really
important concept

and is going to help them
get reelected, perhaps,

if they do support bees.

-So, what can consumers do?

Consumers can be aware
of where their food comes from.

Food is so available
in this country and so cheap.

We really have very
little appreciation

for what it takes
to produce food.

-Our foundation, our history
is built on agriculture

and family farms.

It's getting wiped out
through big agriculture

and, you know,
big chemical companies.

How do we bring a respect
and a reverence back

for the foundation of what
the country was built on

and how do we do that in a way
that's sustainable,

that looks towards the future
and future generations.

Putting beehives in cities
where people can go up

and see agriculture
for the first time --

you know, a lot of them for
the first time in their lives.

And to learn so much so quickly,it's the root

of what Bee Downtown
is doing in cities,

is trying to just share
education about it.

There are so many fantastic
beekeepers across the country,

and if we can help tell
their stories in cities,

then it helps to bring back

a respect and an understanding

for how much work goes
into agriculture.

-A really simple thing
people can do is just

buy U.S. honey.

It's cheaper to buy some
of the foreign honeys,

but to keep the bee industry
alive and healthy,

one of the things we need to do
is just buy U.S. honey.

If you know the beekeeper,
go directly to him.

If you're in a larger urban areaand you don't have that luxury,

you know, source it
and check the jar

to make sure it says
it's a product of USA.

If honey is
a viable alternative,

we can keep the bees
on flowers more.

-You know, supporting
local foods and local farmers

is, again, a great way

to better connect
with your community,

better sort of see
what's going on,

you know, in your backyard,
as it were,

and understand where your food
is coming from.

-Also, as consumers,

accept more blemishes

on our apples.

We can say it's okay.

Right now, we want
the perfect apple.

We want the perfect
piece of fruit.

And what it takes to produce
that perfect piece of fruit is

a lot of pesticide,

a lot of chemical pesticide.

The perfect apple
is not the perfect apple.

-A better way for creating a
sustainable agricultural system

is starting to come not
from the regulatory agencies,

not from the top down,

but from the bottom up.

From the consumers
demanding organic food,

from places like Costco

and Walmart
providing organic food

because they're big enough

that they need contracts
with growers.

They say "We need 500 acres
of organic tomato sauce.

Can you do it?"

And then it's like

you're not swimming
upstream anymore.

It's capitalism,

and you're using
that economic driver

to change the farming system.

That's where the future is,
in my opinion.

-We're seeing more people
buying directly from farmers

in different ways,

through farm markets,
through CSAs.

There's a whole food movement
that is very exciting,

and a lot of young people

actually are very aware
that there is a problem,

and they want to know where
their food comes from.

They want to eat good,
healthy food.

So, I am hopeful.

I am hopeful.

You know,
it's like so many things --

Things have to get really low.

Things have to get really bad
before they get better,

and I hope we're as low
as we're going to go.

-I mean, I see the future,

and it gets me so excited,
you know?

Not just the future
in terms of bees,

but also it's so exciting
to see these farmers

totally change what
we think we know.

Challenge the system, you know.

-Paying attention
to the natural world around us

and how it operates
can be a lesson for us

in how to not only survive
among fellow human beings,

but survive in synchrony
with our environment.

-Bees are just one
of those things

that benefit all the way around.

You know, you can see it
if you watch it.

And then you can see it

when scientists watch it.

I mean, we know bees
are the right thing

to have on the landscape.

We know it's a win-win-win,

and we really get
a nice pleasure out of it

when other people
realize it, too.

-I don't care how many
of these little,

you know, whack-a-moles
that you knock down.

Your arm is going to get tired

before you solve
the bee problem.

You need to focus back
on reinventing

how we produce our food
to begin with.

Then suddenly neonics
aren't an issue anymore.

You just don't need it.

You don't need all
the glyphosate anymore.



And we have healthy kids again.

We have healthy bees.