Neighborhood Critters – Bees: Not Just the Bumbly Kind

It’s not easy being a bee.  In fact it’s estimated that one third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination, most of which is accomplished by bees.  Did you know, bees are responsible for pollinating 90 percent of the world’s commercial plants, from fruits and vegetables to coffee and cotton.  Alarming news considering bees are dying at a rapid rate.  The Guardian recently reported, “the abundance of four common species of bumblebee in the US has dropped by 96% in just the past few decades, according to the most comprehensive national census of the insects.” Collecting pollen is not only what bees do to survive, it’s what they do so we can survive. PHOTO Bee on flower.

Description: There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees. As a small insect, closely related to wasps and ants — yes, ants!, bees need to protect themselves from predators anyway they can.  One way bees have adapted to protect themselves, is by dressing in a brightly colored coat, known as an aposematic signal, or a warning coloration, which signals to potential predators to stay away. Depending on the species of bee, the colors can range from entirely black, to bright yellow, red, orange, white, and pink. The bee’s coat can also act as insulation to keep the bee warm in cold weather and when flying, builds up an electrostatic charge. A well grounded flower then provides a good place to attract pollen to the bee’s coat.  Bees are certainly dressed for succezzzzzzz!

Diet: Bees feed on nectar and pollen. Nectar is primarily used as an energy source and pollen for protein and other nutrients.

Habitat: They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.

More commonly referred to as nests, different bees employ various tactics when it comes to creating a beehive. Honey bees, for example, use caves, rock cavities and hollow trees as natural nesting sites, while members of other species have exposed aerial combs. The nests are composed of multiple honeycombs, parallel to each other, with a relatively uniform bee space. The nest usually has a single entrance.

Getting Along: Bees and humans have peacefully co-existed for centuries and to this day humans benefit greatly from the relationship.  Nevertheless, the fear of bees is common among people.  If bees are essential to our survival and we must save them— how do we get along?

Educate yourself: Bees are attracted to perfumes and bright colors, which makes sense given their work as pollinators.  Bees should not be feared, they are exceptional hardworking creatures.  Learning more about the great work bees do will help build an appreciation for how much bees matter.

Stay Calm: If you are afraid of bees, don’t flail around, it alerts the bee to danger.  Instead, think about this, bee stings hurt because of muscles contracting in shock and even though they may not feel very good, the stings are quite beneficial, strengthening the immune system. Bee venom has been known to reduce pain from and maybe cure chronic inflammations such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and tendonitis.

Call in an expert: If you have a bee infestation that you can’t live with,  call a professional bee keeper to remove the bees safely.

To empower young people to be environmental leaders