Honey bees are somewhat of a popular subject right now. Why? Because bees are important pollinators and they’re disappearing by the millions. According to a recent article from the Mail Online, more than three million bee colonies in America have died since 2006. That’s a big number.

During a recent conference call with reporters, the USDA and United States EPA estimated that $20-$30 billions in agriculture production depends on honey bees. That’s a big number, too.

I’ve had my experiences with bees

Though bees can sometimes be a nuisance, I do have respect for what they do. That respect comes from years of eating nutritious food and one experience, in particular, that will forever be part of my storytelling repertoire:  the time I stuck my hand in a beehive.

Oops!

I was never an athletic child and playing football wasn’t my thing. I did, however, volunteer at the local little-league football team’s field. I was in charge of organizing equipment, cleaning up after games and occasionally working in the concession stand.

One day during practice, I decided to separate the newer pom-poms from the older pom-poms (I forgot to mention we also had cheerleaders). The pom-poms were basically dumped in a giant pile inside of an equipment building.

Note: I knew we had a little bee problem in the building, but we had destroyed a hive of wasps earlier that week so I assumed everything was peachy.

I took two pom-poms at a time from the building and threw them into the sun. I did this for several minutes without any problems until, much to my surprise, when I grabbed one pair of pom-poms, I put my hand directly into a small hive of bees.

It took me about half a second to realize what I had done and then the buzzing began.

I’m no cheerleader, but you wouldn’t know that from my amazing moves

I proved my athleticism that day with several jukes, jumps, rolls, somersault  and wild hand-waving. I knew of only one play to go– the concession stand. “The adults would help me,” I thought. I was wrong.

I ran into the concession stand screaming for help. The adults in there told me to get outside and roll on the ground, so I did. With no hose in sight, one of the crew members then proceeded to hit me with a broom until the bees were dead.

It must have been a hilarious sight, chubby little me running around in a panic.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Luckily I’m not allergic. I was stung 20 times that day. That’s when bees earned my respect. They had me outnumbered, outmaneuvered and caused me bodily harm, three things that garner more respect from a boy than anything else. It was over 10 years until I respected bees for what they really are, pollinators.

It wasn’t until after my visit to the Pennsylvania Farm Show that bees earned a different kind of respect from me. While I was covering the show, I had the chance to watch a beekeeper’s presentation and talk with him afterward.

That’s when I learned about the large-scale commercial beekeeper operations that travel the country pollinating orchards. Without those bees, we wouldn’t have oranges, apples, lemons, pears or any of the other summertime treats we all love.

It was amazing to me that people actually transport hundreds of hives around the country to pollinate. I just assumed the natural bee populations were doing their job.

Bees are fascinating

Unfortunately there’s still no solid evidence that points in any one direction as to the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. In reality, there’s probably several variables contributing to the decline of the bee population including pesticides, mites, climate change, fungi and poor nutrition.

A recent survey revealed that one-third of U.S. bee colonies died over the winter. One-third!

I couldn’t find an exact number, but I’m sure one-third of the colonies in the U.S. is something rather large. Do keep in mind that those who responded to the survey made up around 22 percent of all the country’s beekeepers.

Something needs to be done about our disappearing pollinator friends. The last I heard, Penn State was studying CCD. Hopefully once the college’s research is finished, we’ll have more insight into how to stop the bleeding.

I just realized, if I received one-third of the stings that hot summer day at the football field, I would’ve had an unlucky 13.

Will is Farm and Dairy's newest writer. He's recently moved to Lisbon, Ohio where he lives in a church turned community theater. He enjoys writing (of course), theater and hiking.
Will Flannigan
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