I asked KI to blog on bees because in her day job, she spends much time with these valuable creatures. Of course, I added the photos to accompany this blog. A special drawing will be held for those who comment on this post by September 10. The winner will get an 8×10 signed photo of “It’s a Bee’s Life” on a matboard.
Bees. We don’t think about them much, and the only time we come in contact with them is when we’re trying to avoid them. Understandably, some people are highly allergic to the venom in their sting, and the series of killer bee movies certainly hasn’t helped their reputation.
But consider this. We need them desperately, and since the 1980’s honeybees have come under attack by two different enemies. There is a microscopic tracheal mite whose internal damage is self-explanatory, and a larger varroa mite that attaches itself to the exterior of bees while in the colony, spreading a deadly virus. If bees had been assaulted by just one of these creatures, measures could have been taken to rid the population of the mite. But the double-whammy effect of both mites has caused a serious reduction in the honeybee population throughout the US. In fact, experts claim that the wild honeybee in this country has all but disappeared.
Currently we import honeybees from Italy, the breed considered to be the best at honey production. In southwest China, with respect to apple and pear trees in particular, pollination is done by hand because bees have been eradicated due to excessive pesticide use and loss of habitat. More than 90 American crops valued at more than $9 billion depend on bees for pollination.
So now you know why honey has become so expensive of late. Even without the decrease in the population, a single honeybee travels up to eight miles to collect pollen, fraught will all sorts of predators along the way. And it takes approximately 4,000 flower visits to make one tablespoon of honey. To aid in collection, the honeybee has hairs even on its eyes so that pollen will adhere everywhere possible.
What can you do to help? Plants indigenous to your location are the best start. Your state Fish and Wildlife center can probably provide you with a list of plants that are native to your part of the country and beautiful as well, but will also attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and others. In Maryland, a copy of such a brochure is free. You can also Google beekeepers in your area and ask them what you can do to help. We all need to protect this important species from extermination before it’s too late. For a list of beekeeper associations in your area, check out http://beebiology.ucdavis.edu/EVENTS/statebeekeepingassociations.html.
“If all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”
— Jonas Salk, Biologist
For more photos of bees and pollinators, check out the tab “Recent Photos”