These insects are the bee’s knees

Sweet stingers deserve some respect - or else

Nick McGogh, Contributing writer

A backyard beekeeper tends his hives in Burlington. Photo courtesy Nick McGough

 Bees. I’m not talking about yellow jackets or hornets that so many ill-informed people claim to be bees as they swat and run for the hills. I am talking ’bout honey bees.

These small little insects are the most important agricultural animal on the planet. Living in well-organized colonies with upwards of 100,000 workers, they get shipped all across the country in order to pollinate crops and produce the sweetest stuff on earth: honey. Now we can live without chickens, pigs and cattle but without the honey bee, we are

genuinely in trouble.

Did you know that honey bees are one of the best pollinators on the planet producing one in every three bites of food you eat. Yeah, that is a lot of food that our ever-growing human population needs to survive. They pollinate almonds, apples, blackberries, blueberries, and many other fruits and vegetables that us humans love and enjoy. So why don’t we show a little respect for this friendly insect and not call every flying insect a bee?

Also honey bees, which have been on the planet for over 14 million years, have been living alongside humans since the time of civilization. By producing the only sweetener for hundreds of years, honey bees were seen as a gift from the Gods. Cave drawings depict people climbing trees in order to harvest this liquid gold.

Now here’s a good question, why all of the sudden do people scream and enter a state of panic at the sight of a honey bee? Personally, I don’t know, all these small honey bees want to do is go and get some sweet nectar from flowers to evaporate it down into honey. Trust me they definitely don’t want to sting you, from an evolutionary standpoint it makes absolutely no sense. Why would a honey bee commit suicide to sting something that isn’t a threat to it, or its hive? It wouldn’t do it, so relax sit still and watch the honey bee work its magic, you can even thank it if your heart desires.

If you want to get down to the facts, we put ourselves in a position of attracting insects. All that smelly perfume we wear mocking the smell of flowers, or the overly sugary drinks that has the same molecules of glucose and fructose that is found in nectar and honey. I mean no wonder why honey bees, as well as yellow jackets, come around the moment some sugar comes out.

Nick McGough keeps bees in Burlington. Photo courtesy of Nick McGough
Nick McGough keeps bees in Burlington. Photo courtesy of Nick McGough

So should we care about an itsy bitsy bee? Well if you haven’t heard or live in virtual dimension, they are in grave danger. With foreign parasites like the blood sucking varroa mite (cough, cough, Asia) and honey-loving small hive beetle (thank you, Africa); hives are constantly under attack. Not to mention the numerous viruses and bacteria that are incurable. Some bacteria like American Foulbrood can only be stopped by burning the entire hive down in an inferno of popping bees and melting wax. Additionally large amounts of bee-friendly environments are getting destroyed, cut-down and replaced by plain green grass. Which then requires large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. Here’s the ironic part: bees then harvest these chemicals in the pollen and nectar and we then go and eat it. Yummy! So not only are we eating chemicals when we eat honey, but more importantly the bees are killed in the process.

With the decrease in beehives and honey bee health, humans around the world are putting their food supplies in grave danger. Pollinators at large have experienced a dramatic decline with the rise of new pesticides that are constantly sprayed on crops we eat. Plus monocropping, growing the same crop over a large area, is unnatural and dangerous to pollinators due to the lack of a diversity of blossoms. We humans enjoy and love being disconnected from the planet through the constant use of technology and consuming unnatural “fake” foods with ingredients we can’t pronounce, or GMOs, which are not even real species. But other creatures, lacking opposable thumbs and our “big brains,” rather stay natural and are unable to connect and adapt to the ever changing “virtual” and physical environment.

So next time you see a yellow jacket let’s use that big brain that we all claim we all have and don’t stereotype it by calling it a bee. Let’s not use the honey bee as a scapegoat for flying, stinging insects. They work themselves to death in a month pollinating thousands of flowers of plants and crops, they deserve some respect and recognition.

Writer Nick McGough is a part-time beekeeper known in the Mills community for selling honey.