Why I love bees

I was a gardener once, and when I was out among my blossoms I enjoyed seeing the honeybees and bumble bees visiting the bright blooms, their sonorous buzzing all around me.

I can tell when they are happy by their buzzes. Low-pitched means contentment; high-pitched means irritation. They warn you for a while before they get serious.

But most of the time, they just buzz happily and work around you. I’ve actually bumped my forehead on a bumblebee once, and he didn’t even mind.

Bees like blue-colored flowers the best, but they’ve visited my zinnias, dahlias, gladiolus, lilies, and hibiscus almost as much as my anise hyssop, salvia, lavender, chamomile, and mint. I like to think of them making really tasty honey with all of those sweet scented herbs.

Bees are fun to photograph if you have patience and a decent camera. The average iPhone does and okay job, but for those amazing shots like the one in this article, you need a macro lens on a single lens reflex camera.

Bees are not mean at all, except perhaps killer bees. The only bee that ever hurt me was a dead one I stepped on. I’ve been stung by wasps, yellowjackets and hornets – but never bees.

And their honey is heavenly, especially when the hive’s main source of forage was orange blossoms or clover. My vegan friend Valerie once told me that eating honey is frowned upon by vegan purists, because you’re basically eating their food source for their young and wrecking their shelter. In addition, sometimes bees get stuck in the honey as you pull it out and can drown, which I agree is unfortunate.

There is always agave nectar, which is coming down in price as it becomes more popular. It’s kind of neutral in flavor, but maybe you can season it with orange juice.

Sadly, the world’s honeybees are in the fight of their lives: these little champions of pollination not only have to fly farther and farther to reach decent nectar sources because of human population growth and the desctruction of natural open spaces, they must also deal with a virulent new strain of deformed wing virus which is being rapidly spread by the parasitic Varroa mite. And this isn’t just a catastrophe for our little fuzzy friends – the U.S. has a $10-15 billion honey industry.

I remember two very remarkable bees on film. The first was “Invasion of the Bee Girls,” about women that turn into “bee women” and kill innocent men by having sex with them. They wore shades at night so men couldn’t see their scary compound eyes before they went in for the kill.

Invasion of the Bee Girls

My other favorite bee appearance is the Bee Twins from The Tick animated series. El Seed, a matador-esque animated sunflower, is trying to take over the world with these sexy bee henchwomen.

The Tick Bee Twins

Perhaps the most inspiring and quirky thing about bees is the bee dance. When they go out into the world and find this totally awesome stand of prickly pear cactus in full bloom, or a tea herb garden, they have a way of helping others get there.

When they get back to the hive and run into their buddy, they do this little “nectar dance” where they turn this way and that, frst clockwise, then counterclockwise, like a combination lock. This means something to the bee watching the show along the lines of “go tree tree tree tree turn right go tree tree tree turn left turn left go tree turn left turn left.”

There ya go. Don’t tell anyone else you know where the nectar is.

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