I’m worried about the bees. I’ve read many articles saying that bees are dying off—in drastic numbers. Why? Researchers cite several factors: pesticides, parasites, viruses, loss of habitat, poor nutrition, genetics, and even cell towers.
We should be concerned about the decline of bees, because their decline poses a serious threat to human survival. That’s because bees pollinate many of the fruits and vegetables we humans rely on. I am vividly reminded of this every time I drive onto our provincial house property. When you drive in, you immediately see the beautiful apple orchards spread out on both sides of the driveway. But you must look a little harder to see the beehives nestled near the tree line. The fact is: there would be no apple crop in the fall without those bees in the spring!
So let’s take a closer look at bees—simply to appreciate them more. First of all, there are 20,000 different species of bees including bumblebees, carpenter bees, killer bees, and honeybees.
Honeybees live in colonies with a queen bee, worker bees, and drones. The queen has only one job: lay eggs. The worker bees are all females. The name worker bee is appropriate since they literally do all the work in the colony. They clean the hive, collect the nectar, make the honey, and care for the young. The drones are all males. They have only one job: mate with the queen. No respectable drone would ever be caught dead with a broom and dustpan in his hands! I’ll let you decide if there are any parallels with humans. (Hee!)
Here are a few more facts about bees:
- Honeybees flap their wings 11,000 times per minute, creating their distinctive buzzing sound. They can fly 15 miles per hour. How high can bees fly? Bumblebees win the title for “highest flyers.” Researchers have spotted them at altitudes over 10,000 feet!
- Honeybees have 170 odorant receptors. They use their keen sense of smell to
recognize who belongs in their hive and who does not belong. They kick out intruders. Honeybees can differentiate hundreds of different floral varieties too. They know the distinctive scents of a rhododendron, peony, rose, and azalea.
- A worker bee visits between 50-100 flowers on a single trip, sucking nectar into her “honey stomach” which is different from her food stomach. Back at the hive she passes the nectar to other worker bees who chew it for quite some time to turn it into honey. Then they store this food in honeycomb cells, sealing the cells with wax. Whew! All that work! Little wonder that, in the summer, worker bees usually live for only 40 days. Drones also live about 40 days. All that mating with the queen must wear them out. The queen lives for about 5 years, but she’s “past her prime” after three years.
- Honeybees are the only insect that produces food eaten by humans. Their honey is not only nutritional, it is also therapeutic and medicinal.
- When a honeybee “scout” has found a good source of food, she returns to the hive and performs a “waggle dance.” This dance tells the other worker bees the direction of the food source and its distance from the hive.
- Bees navigate using the sun, the polarization pattern of the blue sky, and the earth’s magnetic field. They prefer to use the sun, but they use the other two on a cloudy day or inside a dark hive. And keep in mind, the bees do all this navigating using a brain the size of a sesame seed! And they never have to ask Siri for directions!
What can be done to slow the decline of the bee population? First, more research is needed to pinpoint the exact causes for their decline and to develop ways to protect and nurture a healthy bee population. This research often comes in the form of tax dollars. Someone remarked, “We should fear the decline of bees more than terrorism…” Interesting. Secondly, we need to encourage amateur beekeeping. (Are any of you already beekeepers? Or do you know anyone who is?) A third step is to encourage people to grow a wide variety of plants that would be beneficial for bees.
And finally, we can show respect for these tiny creatures and teach our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to appreciate and respect them too.
Bees remind us of the connectedness of all living things. With that in mind I chose an excerpt from the song “Circle of Life” written by Elton John for The Lion King. When I saw the play in Cleveland, I confess that the words of the song coupled with the array of animals parading onto the stage in the opening scene actually moved me to tears. I kept saying to myself, “What a magnificent world God had created for us! Wow!”… Here’s the song:
What has been your experience with bees?
Did anything in this reflection stand out for you? Is there anything you would add? I’d love to hear from you!
Good morning, Sr. Melannie. Wow, I knew bees were amazing and vital and all, but your blog post has brought out the finer points of just how miraculous they are. We have a rhododendron by our front porch; it’s in full bloom now and the bumblebees are about their business every day enjoying its blooms. God must take such delight! Yes, save the bees! God’s sweet ambassadors!
Thanks for the lesson on bees Sr. Melannie. What wonderful creatures that keep Mother Earth going!
Pope Francis is so right with his encyclical about our planet. Hopefully, we will find ways to keep her alive.
Thanks Sr. Melannie for this tutorial & reminder. Those of us in the city don’t often have enough direct contact with bees. I will watch them differently now.
PS – I had the exact same reaction to the Lion King when I saw it in New York shortly after it opened!
Thank you for raising awareness of the bees! While your information on honeybees is very interesting, check out The Xerces Society website for information on native bees and how to protect them. Becoming a home bee keeper is like raising chickens–you can care for them and then eat what they provide. But for those interested in other kinds of bees or who don’t want to tackle the whole beekeeping task, plant flowers that provide nectar and pollen. An excellent resource is “100 Plants to Feed the Bees”, recently published by The Xerces Society. A few plants that are easy to grow and you can use yourself: Herbs! Mint, thyme, basil, oregano and most other herbs all produce flowers if you allow some to bloom for the bees. (Mint is invasive, so grow it in a container.) Lavender is another surefire bee attractant. Thank you again, Sister!
Yay bees! I recently met with a landscaper to plan the work for our new home. When he asked what I had in mind, I told him I wanted to attract the bees and butterflies. Birds, too. He said I was the first one he ever talked to that said that they wanted bees. So, thank you for helping to educate about the importance of these little miracles. By the way, I am planting lavender, hydrangeas, roses, and a prairie garden with lots of coneflower and brown-eyed Susan among other bee-butterfly magnets. The Phenomenal Lavender is gorgeous, fragrant, and a true hub with the bees. Last year I saw bee varieties I have never seen before, and they were all working the lavender in harmony with one another. “One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than any place else on earth.”
Thank you for your blog piece on bees. I plan to print it out and add it to my material on bees. I am a freelance writer and have had one article accepted on bees and another one being considered by an editor. If i use your material, I will give you credit and contact you should I include it in an article.
Sister Lou Ella Hickman, I.W.B.S.
I planted (and still working on) a butterfly and bee garden. One of my most successful efforts was buying the native Hyssop plant from a natural garden group. Bought 2 and they are about 3 feet tall and the top foot has purple flowers. I counted 30 bumble bees on it at once. Amazing and so very wonderful. Also many, many varieties of butterflies. We need to do all we can to help these wonderful creatures to survive. Stop with all the poisons that so many people use. That is a beginning point. There are many ways to help God’s creation.
Thank you Sister for the great bee info. We have a small berry farm and last year did not have a single honeybee. This year we found someone willing to place two of their hives on our farm so we are again enjoying their presence and our native bees will have plenty of company as they visit the fruit blooms. We are also planting large plots of native plants to encourage ALL pollinators.
I have to admit I don’t see as many honeybees where I live in CT but there is no shortage of hornets. Now they can be nasty!
Thank you for bringing awareness to the importance of bees. I have a business in St. Petersburg, Fl that removes bees from unwanted areas such as eaves of buildings and relocates them to managed hives. Thanks to you, and others bringing awareness of the importance of bees, people are having bees removed and relocated rather than exterminating them. Due to this, we are seeing an increase in the bee population. [email protected]
Thank you Sister for the bee talk. I have grandchildren who play in my garden area and have set about teaching them to respect the bees and to give them a wide berth. In addition to the herbs and flowers mentioned by others, I have planted bee balm this year. I’ll let you know how it goes as this is my first experience with this plant. I think bees are so interesting to watch, they seem close kin to humans.
I’m sure you remember that my dad kept bee hives for years near his orchard and garden on Brainard Rd. in Solon. We used to love the fresh honey when he brought in the combs and always appreciated the job the bees did in pollinating all the fruit tree blossoms, his strawberry patch and all the vegetables in his garden. We all developed a healthy respect for their role in nature even when occasionally stung in the summer when running around barefoot in the grass!
Excellent article on bees. Yes, we must do all we can to save our bees.
You forgot to mention one company – MONSANTO – that is doing all they can to kill all bees so they can use their GMO crops on the human race. Not a good idea at all. Never buy Round-Up or any or their products. With prayer and God’s help, we can survive this crisis.
Bees are amazing. I have been receiving apitherapy (getting stung by live bees) for health reasons, for the last 6 years and have avoided surgery.