Bees have always kind of scared me. It’s just that they’re so… quick — and they always seemed to buzz around my head, taunting me with that unmistakable buzz. That buzz that, to me, meant I was on the verge of being stung. Although I rarely ever did get stung.
I realize now, though, that bees may not be the little terrorists we always think of them as. In fact, honeybees do great things for us — and right now, they’re in need of our help. In an effort to change my mind about bees for good — and to potentially change yours, as well — I turned to local beekeeper Kevin O’Connor of Beaupre Apiary!
Hi Kevin! What, exactly, does it mean to keep bees?
For me, beekeeping builds upon a relationship that has existed between two species for thousands of years. Working with honeybees is personal, we become close to them. A beekeeper does her/his best to protect the bees, to ensure they make it through hard times, and to share some of their wonder with the world.
It seems like most people would love to live in a bee-less world – but I’m guessing this would affect us in more ways than we know. What are some ways that honeybees help us out?
Honeybees are responsible for pollinating a large portion of the food we eat today. The vast variety of fruits and vegetables we enjoy are the direct result of honeybee efforts! Some of our favorite foods, like almonds, blueberries, citrus, and cherries are all pollinated by honeybees! Think on this: Honeybees are responsible for about 1 out of 3 bites of food we eat!
Is it true that honeybees are becoming endangered? Why is that?
Yes, honeybees are under threat! Many possible explanations exist as to why the bees are in decline, but no one has been able to pinpoint an exact cause. One common thought is that a “perfect storm” of environmental influences (pesticides, GMOs, mono crops, climate change, limited gene pool, etc.) continually weakens the bee’s immune system and habitat. Every year, more and more honeybees die as a result of “colony collapse disorder.” The 2014 winter die-off has been especially bad. :(
What can we do to help save these guys?
There are many easy things we can do to help with the bees.
-Keep your dandelions & clover! They are food and medicine (a bee’s favorite food)!
-Use organic and natural products in your lawn and garden. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides harm bees!
-Plant bee-friendly flowers and herbs from organic seed!
-Support diversified & sustainable agriculture!
Are there certain plants that would be the best for us to plant in order to help save them?
YES! Honeybees love Hosta, Cone Flowers, Cleome, Monarda (bee balm), Hyssop, Yarrow, Catmint, Lace Hydrangea, Spiderwort, Honeysuckle, Cherry Trees, Willow Trees, Maple Trees, Linden Trees, Chestnut Trees, Locust Trees, Blueberry Bushes, Raspberry Bushes, Buckwheat, Clover and much more!
Do you have any advice for aspiring beekeepers? What should their first steps be?
Someone thinking about beekeeping may want to visit an apiary, to get a hands on experience with honeybees. If that turns out positive, consider ordering some equipment from a beekeeping supplier on line, and find some bees! There still may be time for spring 2014! Its always a good idea to read up on different methods of beekeeping.
Any fun facts about honeybees you think we should know?
It is quite rare to be stung by a honeybee. A female honeybee has one sting in her, and she dies when she chooses to sting. Only female honeybees are able to sting! Most stings people get are from carnivorous bees like wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, etc.
And, just to keep our minds at ease… if we do happen to get on a bee’s bad side, do you have any expert advice for treating a sting?
If you feel a bee is after you, move slow, or stay still. Do not swat! Swatting only attracts the bee. Walk slowly away in a zig zag pattern. If you have been stung, Plantain, a common weed in lawns and in city parks & sidewalks, is an excellent “remedy” for stings when mashed up and applied to the site. ;)
A huge thank you to Kevin for sharing his knowledge with us! Now let’s go save these bees! :)
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