In late January, over 60,000 bees were stolen from a field owned by the Giant grocery store chain. Do you need to go back and read that again? I do, and I’m the one who wrote it. Although this sounds like a joke news story, it’s entirely true — and serious business. After all, bees do so much more than make honey.
The theft happened in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and police have gotten involved in the investigation. The bees, which lived in (adorable) branded hives maintained by Giant, called a seven-acre field their home since 2020. The field was created as a pollinator’s paradise, with bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers and plants like mountain mint and milkweed. Carlisle is the supermarket’s headquarters.
Bees are an important part of any food ecosystem, and their population has been on a steadily alarming decline. In 2021 alone, beekeepers reported a 41% loss in their bee population — that’s almost half. Why does this matter? Here’s another percentage that may shock you: Around one-third of our country’s food supply relies on bees to pollinate plants. “From almonds to zucchini and countless fruits, vegetables and nuts in between, nearly one-third of our food supply depends on pollinators, making bees an essential part of our food supply chain and ecosystem,” Giant’s president, Nicholas Bertram, said when the project was announced. In other words, it all starts with the buzzy guys.
The bee heist remains a mystery for now; police have not named any suspects or motives. If you want to help the bee population in your own backyard, you can plant flowers that attract bees, such as mint, lavender, and poppies — it’s important to check that these plants are native to your area, so they and the bees can thrive. It’s also a good idea to avoid pesticides, let weeds thrive (hooray!), and support local farmers and beekeepers by purchasing local honey and produce.
Rochelle Bilow is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, and the former social media manager at Bon Appétit Magazine and Cooking Light Magazine. She has also worked as a cook on a small farm in Central New York, and a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City. Her foodie romance novel, The Whisky Year, will be published in 2023. Connect with her @rochellebilow.