Life in the Hive - Wayne County Journal-Banner Online: Opinion Columnists Columnist One

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Life in the Hive

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012 12:13 pm

The first task of a newly born bee is to clean the cell where she developed and hatched. Then, she may have the task of caring for eggs and larvae by feeding them and keeping them cool by fanning them. She may end up as one of the queen’s attendants, who bring her food and water and carry away her waste, seeing to her every need.

However, the vast majority of the female bees end up as foragers, leaving the hive each day and traveling as far as two or three miles to find pollen and nectar to take back to the hive. When a bee is out hunting for food for the colony, she will remember the location of the food source.

When she returns to the hive burdened down with food, she will do what is called a “waggle dance” to show the other bees where she found the food. This form of communication has been studied and the “code” broken so that scientists can program a robot bee to give directions using the waggle dance. Unfortunately, this amazing skill can also destroy a hive of bees.

People unwittingly destroy hives of bees when they use pesticides in their gardens, or put out sugar water bee traps to kill bees. The pesticides don’t kill immediately, and the bee may encourage thousands of bees to come pollinate the garden that has been poisoned, and this poison gets carried back to the hive and fed to the young. Bees that survive the sugar water traps may lead many more bees back to the trap, causing many of them to be killed.

Normally, bees might not be interested in scrounging in a trash can for food because there are an abundance of their favorite foods in the wild. But, in drought conditions, they are desperate for food and may be drawn to the sugar from soft drinks thrown into trash cans. Instead of trapping or poisoning the bees, which we depend on for up to 70 percent of our food, just try to keep trash cans emptied regularly and don’t allow sugared liquids to remain in the trash for long periods of time. The bees aren’t looking to hurt anyone.

In fact, honeybees are quite gentle, and will seldom sting unless they are accidentally mashed. This is because a worker bee will die once she stings. Her stinger is barbed, and gets lodged and pulls away from the bee, causing her to die. Therefore, a bee will only sting intentionally when the hive is threatened and it is a fight worth dying for. If we lose our bees, we will lose so much more. We will have no honey, no apples, no strawberries, no almonds…the list goes on and on. So, instead of getting upset when a bee is buzzing around, take a second and be thankful for all the good things she brings.

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