Seven police officers were stung on Monday during demonstrations when four beekeepers were protesting in front of Chile’s presidential palace in Santiago. The beekeepers were then arrested.
There has been a long-term mega drought in Chile since 2010 that has adversely affected honey production. It has caused bees’ food sources, such as crops and flowers, to wither. Scientists say that climate change is at least partly to blame.
Beekeepers have asked to meet with President Sebastian Pinera because they are seeking either government reform to improve honey prices, or honey producers need to receive government subsidies.
The beekeepers brought 60 beehives along to the protest, and placed them with an estimated 10,000 bees inside, on the avenue in front of the palace.
Jose Iturra is one of the beekeepers who attended the protest. He told local reporters that the drought to the north of Santiago in the Colina commune was killing the local bees. He said the reason for the demonstration is to make the public aware that the bees are dying. If they die there will be no life.
Omar Guzman spoke on behalf of The Ministry of Agriculture in the Santiago area, saying they are also concerned about the drought and the effect it is having on the bees. The government has been providing aid to 20 communities for months that are experiencing severe water shortages.
It would seem these beekeepers are not receiving the aid the government refers to, or they would not have had to take such desperate measures.
In this unrelated 0:35-second video by TeleSUR English from the year 2014 we can see that the bee population in Chile has been endangered for a very long time. Millions of Chilean bees were killed in the 2017 wildfires, which are most likely part of the same drought that the beekeepers are still protesting about now:
Some locals were upset by the risk the bees posed to the public. One person said it is dangerous for people who are allergic to bees because they could die.
Seven Caribiniers, or national police officers, were stung while trying to arrest the beekeepers and move the beehives out of the street. According to police officials, they were taken to the hospital. These were riot police, and if one looks at the four photos of them here, and here, the bees certainly had a very hard time finding any skin to sting beneath all that riot police gear they were wearing.
Rising temperatures and droughts are affecting bee populations worldwide, in some places much worse than in others. In 2020, a study was published in the journal Science that found that in just one generation, North American bee populations fell by about 50% and European bee populations fell by about 17%.
Beekeepers are deeply bonded with their bees. It is intensely difficult for them to watch their bees die of the drought and lack of food when such an intense drought has lasted since 2010, or for over 11 years already. The beekeepers are correct in saying that if there are no bees, there is no pollination, and then eventually a food shortage, and possibly no life.
Perhaps the fact that this bee-inspired protest has made it to the headlines of newspapers around the globe means that the beekeepers accomplished some degree of success in getting their plight before the eyes of the world. The question becomes, can or will anyone help them? What is their government doing for them?
The problem looming in Chile is much greater than a protest borne of desperation by peaceful beekeepers, or a few people being stung by defensive, dying bees.