Monday, June 2, 2008

Info on Bees

Tiptoeing through the tulips? Watch for the Bees!

This is a copy of an article I just read in one of my RV mailings, and I think it's good to share. I'm not fond of these little beasts, having been stung too many times. So, especially since we seem to be experiencing a shortage of the pollenators right now, a little knowledge might be a good thing!

The article says:
I find it strange to begin this. To me, summer as a kid was always about being barefoot and freedom. Now part of the price you had to pay for that seemingly endless freedom of summer was the occasional sharp stone, or hot tar stuck to your foot or even the fact that once in awhile you got a Bee Sting! I was amazed this week when talking to my three children that 2 of the three can’t ever remember being stung by a Bee, not even once. Not that I went out of my way to be stung by a bee, but it just seemed to happen. I guess the times were a little more primitive. My mother used to tell me to take my shoes off and go play (saved on buying shoes don’t ya know!). Today it seems like every kid has an activity, soccer, swimming, baseball and so on; very few seem to just jump on their bikes, pedal down to the creek, and jump in, or go out into the woods to play.

But, I am wandering off of my topic for the week. Bee stings are feared by many people for a number of reasons. First of which is that they are painful! I mean, only card-carrying masochists want to be hurt on a regular basis, and I don’t think you will find many of those on here. (Wait we pay money to leave our nice comfortable homes to go live in a little, tiny campsite, Ok not serious ones!).
Many also fear allergic reactions to the stings, which is a very valid point!

Many also fear little tiny creepy crawly things! That is my personal favorite. I hate bugs and have been know to “scream like a little girl” when surprised by them.

But what is a Bee? Where do they come from? How can we protect against getting stung? What can we do once we are stung? Let’s see what we can learn…

First of all, the Bee is an insect that has been introduced by European Settlers to America. That is right; at some point, someone had to say ‘OK, there isn’t anything to sting us like bees over in the “New World,” so we better go back and get something from home to do it!’ Seriously though, the Honey Bee was brought over to help pollinate crops and to produce honey. In fact, the Native Americans used to call them “white mans flies”. But even they learned to love the honey they produced.

Honey is very interesting. It has been used to preserve foods, as a ointment on wounds, and as a antifreeze in radiators, and, my favorite, peanut butter and honey sandwiches! I could go on, but, if you want to read more, I am sure you can find many references about bees on the internet. Here is one to start:
The Honey Bee.

Now, how can we protect against getting stung? Well, the easiest way, as I have said, is by wearing shoes! Bees rarely sting unless defending their hives or when manhandled and/or crushed. The honey bee can only sting once in its life, and then it will die; so it doesn’t want to waste it. In fact, when they have no hive (a swarm of bees), you can walk in them, and they won’t hurt you unless you try to crush them; my daughter did just that this past week and said it was like being in one of the old horror movies about bees attacking, but not one sting!

But long pants and shirts do help, and please don’t wear heavy perfume or shampoo. If you smell like a flower, I can tell you they will try to pollinate you — so don’t attract them. Same goes for open containers of sweet beverages, they will try to get into them, and, if they are hidden by the can or bottle, you can accidentally swallow them; then they will sting you. Finally, stay away from a Hive if you find one. That is where they are most protective!

Now, if you do happen to get stung, what can you do? Well, the first thing to do is to scrape the stinger out with a knife, credit card or even your finger nail. If you don’t do so, the stinger will remain in you and continue to pump venom into you. Cold compresses, baking soda and water, or meat tenderizer and water will help take some of the Ouch away. It should only leave a red mark with some swelling. The faster you take the stinger out the smaller the area affected. Some people develop swelling and redness for several inches, others for only a inch or so.

Now, if you are allergic, it is a completely different story. An allergic reaction will have hives (Yes some people say they were named for bee hives) which are red and round raised bumps that can cover the whole body. But more importantly, an allergic reaction can cause your airway to swell and close off. If you know you are allergic, carry an epinephrine shot kit and Benadryl. If you didn’t know you were allergic, take a maximum dose of Benadryl immediately if you start to have trouble breathing, and, in both cases, seek emergency medical care.

I hope this has answered some of your basic questions on bee stings and that you feel a little more comfortable around them. They really are interesting creatures. Please feel free to learn more about them and how they help our world grow!

Now then, after that rather placid description of bees, for those of us in the Southwest, we also know about the "killer bees" aka "africanized bees." They are truly scary! For a full description, check out

For the sake of brevity, here are a few basic facts about the killer bees, taken mostly from the wikipedia article:

The killer bees are hybrids of the African honey bee, accidentally released by a replacement bee-keeper in 1957 in Brazil, from hives of interbred honey bees from Europe and southern Africa. Hives containing these particular queens were noted to be especially defensive. Unfortunately, following the accidental release, the African queens eventually mated with local drones, and their descendants have since spread throughout the Americas.

The Africanized hybrid bees have become the preferred type of bee for beekeeping in Central America and in tropical areas of South America because of improved productivity. However, in most areas the Africanized hybrid is initially feared because it tends to retain certain behavioral traits from its African ancestors, specifically the Africanized bee:

* Tends to swarm more frequently.
* Is more likely to migrate as part of a seasonal response to lowered food supply. * Is more likely to "abscond"—the entire colony leaves the hive and relocates—in response to repeated intrusions by the beekeeper.
* Has greater defensiveness when in a resting swarm.
* Lives more often in ground cavities than the European types.
* Guards the hive aggressively, with a larger alarm zone around the hive.
* Has a higher proportion of "guard" bees within the hive.
* Deploys in greater numbers for defense and pursues perceived threats over much longer distances from the hive.
I tried to put in an animated map showing the spread of these little devils, but it wouldn't animate in the blog, so you might want to check out the wikipedia site. It's a bit unnerving to see how they've spread! As of 2002, the Africanized honey bees had spread from Brazil north to Central America, Mexico, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida and southern California. At their peak rate of expansion, they spread north at a rate of about one mile a day.

Recent evidence suggests that Africanized honey bees may be able to endure cold winters. They have been seen as far north as Kansas City, Missouri, though they are more commonly found farther to the south. As the Africanized honey bee migrates further north through Mexico, colonies are interbreeding with European honey bees. This appears to be resulting in a dilution of the genetic contribution of the African stock and a gradual reduction of their aggressive behaviors. Thus Africanized bees are expected to be a hazard mostly in the Southern States of the United States, reaching as far north as the Chesapeake Bay in the East. In California they have been seen on the Pacific Coast as far north as Santa Barbara and are expected to eventually occupy the San Francisco Bay Area.

Africanized bees are characterized by greater defensiveness in established hives than European honey bees. They are more likely to attack a perceived threat and, when they do so, attack relentlessly in larger numbers, which has earned them the nickname "killer bees."

The media, of course, amplifies any report - but we in the west are familiar with stories of horses and dogs being killed by a massive numbers of stings from an angry swarm, as well as numerous attacks on humans with varying results.

We have learned a few simple tips to protect yourself, hopefully, from harm. If you hear a swarm approaching (and you will hear it - sounds like a train coming), hit the ground and don't move! Don't wear black (this is just a guess but perhaps black indicates a shady spot, good for the swarm to hive up), and certainly don't wear heavy scents. Don't jump in a pool to get away from stinging bees, because they just wait for you to surface and then have your head to attack! And for heaven's sake, don't approach a hive out of curiosity!

On that cheery note, I'm choosing to stay inside, where it's nice and cool, to avoid the 100 degree days in Tucson and to avoid any conflict with the bees!

The Animal Rescue Site
LogoThere is
person with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?