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Let it Bee

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Apoidea on a flower-head (Bistorta officinalis), Rothorn, Brienz, Switzerland. Andrew Bossi

My friends love bees.  How many people can say that?  This would be true for you too if your friends, classmates, coworkers and mentors were all plant scientists.  I have to admit that I am also developing a deep respect for the little guys as I come to understand how important bees and other pollinators are for plant reproduction.

But why do so many people dislike these insects?  Why do they get such a bad rap?  Undoubtedly, stories of “killer bees” swarming people and stinging them severely gives people the impression that these pollinators are dangerous.  But putting all bees into this one category is analogous to saying that all birds hate water… or something equally as silly.  There are literally thousands of bee species in the world and most of them are in no way aggressive or a threat to humans.  If anything, we depend on these insects for survival as they are the pollinators of our gardens, our natural landscapes, and even many of our food crops.

My hope is that in the future people learn the truth about the little flying insects that needlessly scare people every year.   Go watch Jerry Seinfeld’s 2007 “Bee Movie” for a fun take on the happenings in a honey bee hive, but realize that in no way was Seinfeld trying to be scientifically accurate (at least I hope not) and that honey bees are just one of the over 19,000 species of bees in the world.

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Most bees are gentile creatures that only sting when they are defending their hive or themselves. Unfortunately "killer" africanized bees are giving all bees a bad wrap. The more you learn about bees the more realize how much we depend on these little guys for what we eat and so many of plants we take for granted. More people should learn beekeeping so that they understand appreciate the work that these fascinating little guys do for us and the planet.

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