A Word About Bees

(This post has been edited for accuracy).

What would be your reaction if you suddenly saw a swarm of bees buzzing through the sky or even around you? For many the response would be panic. RUN! AAAAAA!.

I’m here to tell you, though, that there is nothing to fear (note: see Upate below). For the record, the bee I am referring to here is the common European Honey Bee, the bee most of us think of when we think bee. Anyway, these bees aren’t out looking to attack someone innocently going about their business. They are simply relocating. Here is a link with more information on that.

On our property we’ve had the privilege of temporarily providing rest stops to three swarms. I can personally attest to the fact that the last thing in the world bees are thinking of when on these ventures is attack. This is a picture I took after the first swarm landed:

As you can see, the bees were completely oblivious to my presence. If not, they still didn’t show me the slightest hostility.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened at a plant nursery I worked at years ago. There, I was also witness to three swarms. Two of those three times, however, the result was tragic. Even though I stood right in the midst of these swarms, hundreds of bees flying all around me, not a one landing on me, until they alighted on their chosen resting spot, thus demonstrating their safety, still the store customers freaked out and demanded the store do something. The result was that the next morning when I came in I found the ground littered with the bodies of all those hundreds of bees. Surely the pest control people who did the actual spraying could have told them not to worry, that they’d likely be gone in a couple of days, but then where’s the profit in that?

The third time bees decided to bed down for the night at the nursery, I waited until they were all on the wisteria they’d chosen, then another staff member and I carefully lifted the 15 gallon pot, put it on a pallet and with a pallet jack took it outside and put the pot in a nondescript area out of view of the general public. Just as expected, two days later the bees having rested, were off. A few somehow got left behind and seemed unsure where the others had got to. I put some honey on the trunk of the wisteria which they eagerly gobbled. Then they too were off.

I am not going to guarantee you that you will never be stung, but just know that bees have to feel threatened before they will sting. That’s because a bee sting is not like a wasp sting. A bee can only sting once, but with a sting that bee will die. So they don’t take stinging lightly.

Most of us are aware that bees pollinate the majority of plants that then go onto become the food that we eat. Without them we would be in a world of hurt. They also give us honey. That delicious gooey golden goodness we take for granted. But for years now bees have been suffering from a frightening malady called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), wherein 30% – 50% of bee colonies have been dying or simply disappearing every year. The culprits are various, mainly, a mite called the Varroa (an exotic from Asia), poor diets, as much of the diverse native wildflowers bees used to dine upon have been paved over and they are forced to feed upon a monoculture plant like almonds, and the use of dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides manufactured to be sprayed on GMO crops (or their seeds) like Monsanto’s biotech corn.

So the next time you see a bee swarm, delight in the (sadly increasing) rarity of a wonderful natural event. Inform others as well. Let’s end the epidemic of fear and ignorance that is causing so much harm to our planet. And plant some wildflowers*. You’ll not only make yourself happy, but the bees will love you too.

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*From seeds, preferably organic. I don’t recommend potted flowers as they’ve likely been sprayed.

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Update: I realize from comments below that I should clarify something, not just for this post but others on this site as well. First, a relocation swarm is not the same as a sudden swarm of bees defending their hive. Next, in my urgings for perspective on perceived threats from the natural world I am not claiming that there are none. Of course there are. It’s just that often we humans tend to exaggerate them and amplify the relatively rare negatives to encompass our views of all of nature. That has had serious repercussions for the biosphere, and ultimately will for us. I hope that as a race we will begin to develop a calmer, more thoughtful, even appreciative view of the world around us. Then perhaps, if there’s still time, we will not be so at odds with nature but in harmony with it.

By the way, You can use Anamika (from the comments section) as your role model. Attacked by bees that had been provoked by others, yet still Passionate about animals and environment conservation.

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12 thoughts on “A Word About Bees

  1. I remember walking back to home from the place where my school bus dropped me. It was sunny December afternoon, and the road was deserted. I was the lone walker down the road. Suddenly I saw the man hysterically running towards me, and trying to signal me something. I had no clue what he was trying to tell me. And then as soon as he crossed me, I knew what he was trying to tell me. He was under attack of bees. And soon I was surrounded by hundreds of bees. Stinging me everywhere. Bcz it was December, I was fully covered except my hands and head. I remember the pain of those hundreds of stings. I threw my bag and ran towards the first house I saw. But no one will open their gates for me. My home was still at distance. I was surrounded by hundreds of bees and I couldn’t think of anything. Few did open their gates, but they closed it soon after seeing me. At last after 8 or 9 houses, I saw 2 men Stading in front of their home. They were kind. And they immediately helped me. And I remember nothing afterwards. May be I passed out. I remember waking up in hospital with my mother near by. She told me that someone in their home was patient of my father. So they recognised me and searched my bag. And informed my family about me.
    This was my side of story. Later I came to know that some construction workers disturbed the bee hive at the construction site near by.
    So I think I am not going to keep grudges from those bees.
    Though I still get mortified by the presence of even single one of them.

    Like

      • Yeah it was quite an ordeal. But as I clarified that it was my side of story. Someone actually destroyed/disturbed a bee hive. What bees did was a natural reaction. We protect our home, don’t we. So I never kept grudges from those bees. My fear for them is natural. But I never want them dead.
        They provide us pollination worth of millions of dollars. And still we never cared for them. By use of pesticides their population is declining. They r declining to the level that we should get worried now. We killed over 350 million bees in just few year. And this data will be very very very high if u take Asian countries into account.

        By commenting I just wanted to share one of my experience with bees. Obviously I appreciated your post. We need more people like you in our society and in our governments.

        And thanks for the mention. It was unexpected. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Most welcome Anamika. I fear too many people have a bad experience (e.g. a bite or sting or poison ivy/oak reaction), then get a negative impression that lasts a lifetime. The irony is, we humans do far more harm to other species then they to us.

        I, too, have had some less than positive experiences, yet as I say in my True Stories post: I’ve been tick bit more times than I can remember. Rattlesnake bit, which I was able to take care of with quick action (no, no harm to the snake), poison oaked, fell off a 15 foot cliff when I mistook some footing, spraining an ankle. Hiked in blistering sun and pouring rain. Through raging rivers and long, narrow, dry canyons. Swam beautiful, uninhabited lakes. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Always I’ve found that there is something out there that calls to me, to my soul.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I heard about a swarm in inner-city Dublin recently that was relocating but freaked loads of people out, and pest control were called. Luckily, there is some offshoot of the municipal services which is equipped to deal with this, so they managed to relocate the bees safely and then did some radio interviews to explain to people how harmless they are when in this mode. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with standing in the middle of them – in fact I’m bloody sure I wouldn’t be! – but at least I now know who to call.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment Tara. It is a shame that people are so driven by fear and ignorance of the natural world that most won’t even venture into it, preferring instead the cities. They don’t know what they are missing, and the world loses the benefit of their voice to speak in its defense.

      Liked by 1 person

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