Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bee Killer or Killer Bee?

Mention the word bee to most people and they shudder.  Not in the same way that people shudder over a spider or snake, but in a way that indicates a certain painful sting if one should be in their vicinity.  A common statement made is that they are allergic to bee stings. Funnily enough many people who say that they are allergic to bee stings don’t carry a bee sting kit or wear a Medic Alert bracelet! If you are truly allergic to bee stings, you could die without immediate treatment.

Most people who have been stung by a bee will experience pain and swelling in the area. This may last an hour or two or a few days. This is not an allergy, but merely a reaction. This can be treated with  Echinacea applied to the area that was stung, and taken internally. Vinegar is also useful to apply to the stung area. I once received 30 or more stings to my face and head and was fully recovered after two days. I have developed a sting gel which works very well indeed. I was the guinea pig, and the stung area was better in two hours (better = hardly noticeable).

It is an extremely rare event for a swarm of bees to attack an animal or human. It does happen, but usually because the swarm in its home was disturbed in some way. Sometimes they make a home in a compost heap or an old box or tree trunk, and they are stumbled upon by accident by a dog or human on a walk. They still won't attack unless seriously disturbed. If they do it is a very serious situation and apparently jumping into water doesn’t really help because the bees wait for you to come up for air. Bees might also attack someone who has strong perfume on or who smells bad to them – but this would be a few bees, generally not a whole swarm. Bees are very sensitive to smells and noises.

Making propolis
Bees who are happily gathering pollen on a shrub on a warm and sunny day, are not going to stop what they are doing to give you a sting! They are too busy to be bothered. Likewise bees that are swarming won’t sting you as they have their minds on finding a new home and protecting their queen. You can handle a swarm of bees which has clustered on a branch, with your bare hands. Do not be afraid of a swarm which flies over your garden or even lands in your garden. Just leave them alone and they will move away in a day or so.

And this brings me to the bee killers….. People who grab a can of insecticide the minute they see a bee. And even worse, people who kill an entire swarm that has landed in their garden or moved into a corner of their shed or into a cavity wall.

By now everyone knows that bees are endangered and that without bees 75% of the fruit, nuts and vegetables we eat will not get pollinated, so we won’t have enough food anymore. This is a world-wide problem. In some parts of China where there has been an appalling over use of agricultural chemicals, all the fruit trees have to be hand pollinated.

Bees are endangered for a combination of reasons: They have become weakened by Commercial Bee keeping practices such as repeatedly moving hundreds of hives great distances – this stresses them; feeding them sugar; using chemical agents in the hives; Agricultural practices such as monocropping, aerial spraying of poisons onto the crops; loss of habitat; Gardeners using insecticides, fungicides and other poisons (even organic poisons)in their gardens; spraying fruit trees when they are in flower; spraying flowers; Diseases spreading throughout the world – various bacterial, viral and parasitical diseases have spread across continents severely affecting bee numbers. And then there’s you – the bee killer who sprays or burns a whole innocent swarm, just looking for a home.

Create a bee garden
Bee killers far outnumber killer bees. Bees are peace-loving hard working insects who like to be left alone to do their thing. Love them and leave them and they’ll make you honey. Plant them a nice wild flower garden, or leave part of your garden to go “wild”. Place a shallow dish of water up high somewhere for them. They are very thirsty in the dry hot summer months. And stop buying insecticides. Leave the poisons on the shelf in the garden centre and supermarket – you’ll be sending the big companies like Bayer a strong message.
Bees deserve our respect. They do an enormous job for us, apart from making honey. Let's all help save the bees. Every little helps