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Where Are My Bees?

[I am hoping the New Yorker cover is a one-day story. Much nonsense spewed on this matter. I liked this passage in Kennicott's story today, describing New Yorker readers: "They are an elite, a minority, and while they might be more educated or sophisticated or adept at the play of humor, they will always be outvoted by Texas."] [Here's Hannah Lobel at Utne Reader: "Here's the thing about good humor: Not everyone's going to get it. Comedy, satire, humor, whatever you want to call it, is absolutely essential to a vital culture of political criticism. If we muzzle our humorists--going so far as to inveigh against those who have the clear intent of lambasting ignorance--than we're in for a very boring, very unreflective four to eight years if Obama moves into that toasty, Osama-adorned Oval Office."]

We've all read about that Beehive Derangement Syndrome, or whatever they call it, where bee colonies go kerplunk for no obvious reason. Scientists don't know if it's a virus or a chemical from pesticides or what. You've heard the dire scenarios of a world without bees -- supposedly we'd have about four years left before society completely collapses. Sadly, I must report that Doomsday has already arrived in my yard.

For weeks I've been puzzling at the failure of my tomatoes to shake a leg and get themselves laden with fruit. I've got a few tomatoes here and there, but mostly I've just got plants that aren't interested in producing anything. There are lots of little yellow flowers but hardly any tomatoes. At first I thought my plants were just late. Now it occurs to me: There are no bees.

Normally we have lots of bees, and indeed, for years, the kids refused to go outside on the off chance of an encounter with so terrifying a creature. But I just haven't seen many lately. I think my bees have become deranged and left town.

My neighbor Murphy, source of all wisdom of an agronomic, geological and paleontological nature, says the tomato plants don't actually need bees, that they can pollenate themselves. At his instruction, I've been shaking my plants by hand, trying to rattle loose the pollen and get it airborne.

But what's this world coming to when a person has to shake common sense into his vegetation?


[more to come ... hitting the road...]

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 15, 2008; 8:37 AM ET
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