Friday, August 21, 2009

Honey Bees

Mom read this book last week and she really liked it. I liked it too, but I'm still afraid of all the bees in the yard. I know that they're not out to get me, but I just don't trust them. I'm not a scardey cat or anything, it's just that they sneak up behind me and pow - they're in my face.

We don't have honey bees in our yard, but if we did Mom would be really happy about it. Honey bees are quiet possibly one of the most important animals in the world. There are between 16,000 and 20,000 species of bee in the world, but only 7 make honey. This just goes to show how rare honey is, but honey is not the only reason we need bees.

The author starts the book by describing how he got involved with bees. His father brought a hive home one day and the family became beekeepers. His appreciation of the natural world was forever changed because of this event. Isn't it amazing how some people can remember in detail the turning point of their life? Mine was when Mom and Dad brought me home. It not only changed my life, it also changed theirs.

I really love this quote from the book "Honey is the culmination of what the entire earth - rock, soil, water, plant, animal - can do when everything works together." After reading this sentence I fully understand how truly organic honey really is. The fact that bees create this despite so many obstacles is nothing short of a miracle.

The honey bee is not native to the U.S. and in fact it evolved on the warm shores of the Mediterranean. Hey, that's where Mom's peeps are from. Maybe her ancestors were beekeepers!

Bees have been on Earth for more than 100 million years and honey bees have history dating back to 3,500 BC. Plants were on Earth first but when they changed their plans and added the diversity of sexual reproduction, they produced the flower. Ah, the flower. But the flowers needed something to move their pollen around. What would do that for them? Enter the bee. Along with other pollinating animals, they are responsible for the success of the flower.

Bees have very organized social structures similar to ants. There are workers, drones, and queens. The typical colony contains an average of 60,000 bees that work together to ensure the success of the colony. All worker bees are female and they make up 99% of the colony. They are also the only bees that sting and they fly up to 60 miles per day. After stinging someone, the bee dies. The barbed stinger stays in the bee, tearing out her abdomen as she flies away. How sad is that? Since this sting is a death sentence to the bee, it takes a lot to get her to sting you. She must be provoked. Leave her alone and she will leave you alone.

The drones are all male and their only job is to fertilize the queen. Rough life, huh? The poor drones are stingless and rarely come out during the day. This is discrimination I tell you!

There has always been such mystery surrounding how bees produce honey and the author details the history quite well. I don't want to give a lot away, but some of the ways people thought honey was produced are pretty bizarre. One of the coolest parts of the book was the part about how the bees communicate. The author likened it to giving directions. If Mom tells you the store is down the street, make a left, got to the stop light, make a right, and you are there, you can find the store. But how do the bees tell other bees where the flowers are? They dance. How cool is that?

Back to why we need bees. I cannot put this any better than the author when he said "So the bee is doing three things when she lands on a flower: gathering nectar, spreading pollen, and making life on our planet worth living." Just think about that for a minute. If flowers only reproduce via sexual reproduction, then bees are the ones making this possible. So without bees, no flowers. No flowers means no fruits. Fully 1/3 of all crops depend on bees for their reproduction. Honey is just a sweet byproduct the bees give us.

All of this brings me to a greater understanding of the bees role in our lives. It also makes me more aware of the seriousness of the sudden decline of bees. Since 2004, reseachers and beekeepers have been witnessing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which threatens to wipe bees out of our lives forever. CCD occurs when the workers leave the hive, which is full of honey. In some of the hardest hit areas, as many as 90% of the bee colonies have been affected. No one really knows why CCD is happening, but I just read this week that some researchers believe it could be linked to high fructose corn syrup. That stuff is truly evil.

We need bees much more than they need us. Despite the movies and our own fears, bees are not out to get us. They are simply doing the jobs they've being doing for millions of years, before we were even here. But they need our help. Pesticides kill lots of bees every year. Diseases and mites kill them too. CCD may wipe them out for good, so we need to do all we can to ensure their survival. Please do not kill bees when you see them. Plant flowers for them to feed on and pollinate. Respect them and learn about them. But most of all, be aware that their future is in our hands. We are responsible for their survival. They are depending on us, so please don't let them down.


Stacy/Brutus said...

Mom loves Been too. She planted some plants to attract bees to our yard. One thing she really like is watching them frolic around the cat nip. Great post.

Tweedles -- that's me... said...

Hi Stubby
What a beautiful story about the bees. We have lots of bees! They are welcome here- but the yellow jackets are not!
Have a good weekend Stubby.
Thank you for sharring this story!

Stubby said...

Hi Stacy/Brutus! I'm glad you guys love bees. Planting things the bees like is important to keeping them around, so thank you for taking care of them. We need more people like you to ensure the bees survival.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Tweedles! I'm so glad you have lots of bees in your yard. Aren't they neat? The yellowjackets haven't been nice to you huh? They too have a place in the world, but maybe not in your backyard.

Stubby xoxo

Melissa and Emmitt said...

hi stubby!
aren't bees amazing? i think it is so interesting how we are frightened of a creature that does so much good in the world!

my friend diana has a whole blog set up to save the bees. i know you will like her!
she is a postive force in theis world just like you and your mom!


Stubby said...

Hi Melissa & Emmitt! It is a shame that people are so frightened of such an amazing animal. It reminds me of how people fear snakes. The world would be a very different place if we didn't have bees and snakes and that wouldn't be good.

Thanks for the link to your friend's bee blog. I am going to check it out.

Stubby xoxo