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Why do I feel like “Dear Abby?”

Message:

I love my neighbor….BUT I hate the honey bees that FLY all over our
farm/yard/pool/kids and play yard!! My little grandchildren are scared of
them. How can I deter the bees without insulting my nice neighbor??

Frustrated!

Dear Frustrated,

I know this is not the answer you were looking for, but I offer it anyway.

I was surprised to hear you have a farm yet resent your neighbor’s honey bees. Of course, I know not what kind of farm it is, but I expect rural dwellers to have a greater understanding of the complexities and interrelationships of the natural world than those who live elsewhere.

But today, even the urban dwellers are more welcoming of honey bees than ever before. Residents of cities, counties, and other municipalities throughout North American and many other parts of the world are awakening to the fact that populations of natural pollinators are declining at an alarming and unprecedented rate, and we humans are ever more dependent on the ones we have left, especially the honey bee.

Yes, they can be annoying at times. And yes, their flight paths change with the seasons, depending on what is in bloom. But let me ask you some questions.

Do you eat colorful fruits and vegetables such as apples, cherries, avocados, blueberries, or mangoes? Thank a honey bee. Do you enjoy nuts such as almonds, cashews, or macadamias? Thank a honey bee. If you like to cook with canola oil or season your food with thyme, rosemary, basil, or sage, thank a honey bee. Do you ever plant seeds in your garden? Seeds such as carrot, kale, dill, or sunflowers? You guessed it. They all depend on honey bees.

Do your grandchildren wear cotton underwear or use cotton towels in the bath? Do they carve a jack-o-lantern in the fall, or enjoy a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving? Again, thank a honey bee.

By the way, do they drink milk? Eat cheese, yogurt, sour cream, or ice cream? Don’t forget that bees pollinated the flower that made the seed that the farmer planted to raise the plant that fed the dairy cow.

But why stop there? A long, long time ago the bees pollinated many of the plants that fell to earth and became compressed by mudslides and water and all kinds of natural circumstances. Heat and pressure turned them into oil deposits which we pumped from the ground and formed into plastic to make milk jugs and toys, cribs and car seats.

In spite of all that, I agree no one should have to live in fear, especially not children, so this is what I recommend. You say you like your neighbor, the beekeeper. Good. Go knock on her door and explain that your grandkids fear the bees.

Ask her if she will show them the inside of a hive. Ask her if they can stick their fingers into a comb of honey warm from the sun and the bodies of thousands of bees. Tell her you want them to lick from their fingers one of the premier wonders of the natural world.

Ask her to catch a drone—they can’t sting—and let him walk about within their cupped hands. Let them count the six legs, five eyes, and two pairs of wings.

Ask if you can buy a comb or jar of honey to take back to your home and savor. Not only will the kids lose their fear, but they will remember the day for the rest of their lives. They will always understand the connection between bees and the foods we eat, and they will think you are the best grandparent in the universe . . . and they will be right.

And maybe, somewhere along this journey, you too will lose your fear—a fear that I suspect is the real problem here.

Best wishes,
Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

michelle michaud
Reply

Wow that was beautiful.

Rusty
Reply

Thanks, Michelle. We’ve been there haven’t we?

WesternWilson
Reply

Ditto here. But may I also add:
Even if your neighbour got rid of HER honeybees, there will still be honeybees visiting you. Honeybees are everywhere, not just at your neighbour’s/nearest visible kept hive.

I also find, regrettably often, women who like to ascend to the bully pulpit on behalf of children, or grandchildren, or a particular animal species, by way of illustrating their maternal and nurturing qualities. This is often motivated by a simple desire to criticise others or rain on their parades, and is an inauthentic “dodge” I find particularly irritating.

Rusty
Reply

Native bees are everywhere as well, and most people can’t tell them apart.

rjbuxton
Reply

WW. A great articulation of an aspect of human nature we increasingly see, in men as well as women.

Phillip
Reply

Okay, you got me beat. I recently responded to a similar question and I don’t think I was nearly as… diplomatic? I defer all future inquiries of this sort to you. My master.

Rusty
Reply

Phillip, my acolyte, you are always good for a laugh.

Patrick
Reply

Excellent evocation of the wonder of honey and hive.
Editorial aside: leafcutter bees most likely pollinated the alfalfa, not honey bees

Rusty
Reply

Thanks. I sometimes worry that I have dead spots in my brain. It could also be alkali bees. I changed the text to a generic bee and a generic plant—the point is the same. Thanks for finding the error.

Andrea
Reply

I don’t know about cows, but my dairy goats eat lots of things pollinated by bees. Today they escaped their fence and ate plants I had paid money for with the intent of feeding bees, in fact. The goats are lucky they’re cute.

Audrey
Reply

Beautifully said. Kudos to you.

Terry
Reply

Wow, what a way with words! That was almost like a poem 🙂 I’m a “gonna-bee” keeper–I built 3 hives over the winter and they are ready for the girls to arrive in a couple of weeks. I’m so excited about keeping bees, finding your wonderful blog about beekeeping, and I’m just excited! I was really thrilled to read the recent post about just setting the package inside the hive instead of beating them around–that never seemed quite right to me. I’m using 8 frame mediums, natural size bees, and frames with no foundation. Each hive has a quilt in the Warre style. I’m hoping all goes well…….

Nancy
Reply

Excellent, Rusty!

I would have (and probably WILL, soon) add that the bees must be there because there is something for them to forage on, and that foraging bees rarely sting, unless you touch or step on one.

My wise mother got me past fearing bees the first time I stepped on one barefoot, and got stung. She said the bee that stung me died, and that I had to be very careful where I walked to keep from killing any more. I was 5 or 6. Never learned to fear them: developed a lifelong fascination; and I never check my hives without a prayer of thanks to her.

All the best,
Nan

Bill
Reply

I’m guessing here, but I am willing to bet that the neighbors honeybees are getting the blame for the yellow jacket hornet bad behavior. To many folks think, if it flies and buzzes its a bee! And since there are known hives near by… the hover fly, hornet, wasp, etc… are coming from the neighbor. Learn to identify the honeybee and educate the children what to be weary of (not scared). Knowledge is power!

David
Reply

Wow. Did this question come to you on April Fools Day? I agree with your answer, but (assuming they are honeybees) isn’t the bees behavior suspect? Honeybees don’t just fly around in people’s way for no reason.

If indeed those are honey bees, I suspect the pool is the closest source of water and is attracting the bees.

The woman should also invite the beekeeper over to the pool area and ask, “Are these honey bees?”

Rusty
Reply

A good idea. Often we blame the thing closest to hand. Knowing her neighbor has hives, she may just be assuming they come from there.

Jim Withers
Reply

Well done, Rusty. Reminds me of the proverb, “A soft spoken word turns away wrath”. Your wise offer of education rather than scorn, hopefully, may prompt this person to re-evaluate their concerns. Thank you for the wonderful work you do here on Honey Bee Suite.

Jim Withers

Wayne Davidson
Reply

Well said.

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